Perilous bodies (PoemTalk #163)


'A useful extreme'

Recent ecopoetics has demonstrated considerable interest in what Joan Retallack speaks of as “reinvestigat[ing] our species’ relation to other inhabitants of the fragile and finite territory our species named, claimed, exploited, sentimentalized, and aggrandized as ‘our world.’”[1] Increasingly, poets have been concerned with exploring and transforming human relations to plant and animal life, while resisting human exceptionalism and attempting to escape or minimize anthropocentrism; their practice aligns with posthumanist investigations across the environmental humanities

Gelatin poetics

Everything about you’s a bit like me —
in the same way that North Carolina’s a bit like Ribena
but rhymes with Vagina, which is nearly the same,
but much darker —
brutal and sweet like disease,
sweet as an asphalt dealer.
— Selima Hill, A Little Book of Meat[1]

'Prickly new cells'

Some of the most extreme acts of writing now being composed in the capitalist Anthropocene are being performed by petrochemicals. What does it look like to write in response to this writing? How do we “make oil a more conceptually powerful part of our knowing,” as Imre Szeman suggests must happen as part of any larger political activism?[1]

Too much information

Anatomic is an attempt to think of writing in a more expanded way by incorporating the results of chemical and microbial testing on my body into poems that examine, through personal, biological, industrial, and cultural contexts, how the “outside” writes the “inside” in necessary and toxic ways. I offer my experiences working on this book as one perspective on some of the aesthetic, procedural, and formal concerns associated with this series of commentaries on metabolic poetics.

Metabolic pathways

Oil is a form of writing. I know this because I can read it in my blood, urine, and shit. As part of research for a recent book, I tested myself for a wide range of chemicals. I also had my microbiome sequenced. I found petrochemical pollution in my blood and urine in the form of pesticides, flame retardants, phthalates, and more. I discovered evidence in my gut of shifted microbial communities associated with aspects of the Western diet. I wrote about what I found in a book called Anatomic, which I will discuss in more detail in the next post.

New writing through the Anthropocene


Glimpsing the new normal

Writing that tends to take an anthropocentric consideration of the physical world — e.g., a traditional nature writing that privileges human observation — implies a certain hierarchical separation between subject and material. It is the same assumption that leads to the glaring dismissal of other actants, especially those considered to be alien (i.e., not human). When the fantasy of privileged human experience is dissolved, there is an equitable condition, where people and their environments are slipped, or perhaps coerced, into substance.

Slowing the rate of perception (PoemTalk #134)


Al Filreis was joined for this episode of PoemTalk by Evelyn Reilly, Joshua Schuster, and James Sherry to discuss the title poem of Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s book Hello, the Roses (New Directions, 2013; 58–62). Berssenbrugge’s PennSound page includes two recordings of her performance of this poem. The recording we played before our discussion is from a reading given at Dominique Levy Gallery in New York in March of 2016.

Three pebbles

What is a pebble? Is it an object or a thing? A weapon or a tool? Is it naïve or is it sentimental? Is it a token of the real, or a fragment of ideology? Can you do more than skip it or hurl it or mark a grave with it? What is the pebble to poetry? Of what might the poem make it speak?

Syndicate content