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:
Several of the poems in Gary Snyder’s The Back Country (1967) were written in an oil tanker, one of his methods of transpacific travel as he was writing poems melding Far Eastern philosophies to his native Pacific Northwest realities in the late 1950s.
I’m thinking about the ways poets embed themselves within and ply their awareness to particular locales, and I’m thinking more specifically of how such an embodied poetics is enacted as a healing gesture - and how these gestures connect to form a kind of bioregion, one defined by responsive organisms. It’s no wonder they are appearing often of late – it’s been almost a year to the day that we read reports of a newly-discovered crack in the West Antarctica ice sheet that threatened larger destabilization of surrounding areas, and read that a rise in sea level by 10 feet or more was deemed "unavoidable."
I can't think of a better way to begin this commentary about emplaced poetries than through the Cascadia Poetry Festival convening presently on Vancouver Island, in Nanaimo, British Columbia, April 30 to May 3. Emphasizing bioregional boundaries over those of nation-states, the Cascadian Movement elaborates a new geographically-based sense of place.