As uninvited interlocutors, other creatures have long been writing their way into the metabolic conversations of human life. As vectors for various parasites and viruses, mosquitoes, for example, have exerted considerable pressure on human evolutionary and cultural history. They have killed approximately half of the humans who have ever lived, Timothy C. Winegard points out in his book detailing, among other things, the cascading connections between the mosquito and the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the transatlantic slave trade, the spread of Christianity, and the development of modern democracy. Beyond the consequential molecular inscriptions of an insect bite, however, how has the metabolism of other creatures informed conceptualizations and approaches to writing itself? How have writers worked with the metabolizing bodies of other creatures, inviting them to participate in imagining new forms of kinship and sustainable relationships with place and multispecies community?
As uninvited interlocutors, other creatures have long been writing their way into the metabolic conversations of human life. As vectors for various parasites and viruses, mosquitoes, for example, have exerted considerable pressure on human evolutionary and cultural history. They have killed approximately half of the humans who have ever lived, Timothy C.
Neither a survey of contemporary practice, nor a conference report, this ‘plenary’ is a petri dish of ideas occasioned by the 2015 convening of ASLE ( limited by my own ability to digest the conference offerings).
A need to register the ecological effects of anthropocy may motivate an ecopoetic approach to soundscapes. But there’s also the fact of what scientists are calling “learned deafness” for which embodying listening-being becomes an organic imperative. Embedded, active listening is connective, emplacing, locating. But more than that: what if where you are is what you hear, and vice versa? According to Anthropologist Tim Ingold and constituents of bioregionalism, what we contemporary humans lack is inhabitant knowledge – and engaging sense capacities in acts of listening-being is one way contemporary poets cultivate inhabitant knowledge.
Informed by Soundscape Ecology, acoustic imbalances, and the fragmenting of natural habitats is the focused listening in Jonathan Skinner’s Birds of Tifft. Language is modified to “capture” sounds like a directional mic, registering, in a poem titled “Beaver,” shift from ground, to figure, to ground, to figure, etc., with the mammal making but a brief appearance via a couplet near the center of the poem:
The 2013 Conference on Ecopoetics began at a satellite event hosted by the Davis Humanities Center. Jonathan Skinner, editor of the journal ecopoetics, and author of among other books, Warblers, published by Brian Teare's micro-press Albion Books, sat at a table with his publisher and fellow-poet, whose most recent collection, Companion Grasses, will appear in print April 1. A selection of this same volume, “Transcendental Grammar Crown,” can also be found in the newly released Arcadia Project, edited by Joshua Corey and G.C. Waldrep.