Commentaries - April 2013

Learning in the 'expanded field'

by Margaret Ronda

Double Helix stairs, Treasure Island, CA (Wikimedia Commons)

What might an ecological education entail in a time of planetary crisis? Can a poem, or a walk, or a site-based action, produce new paths for thinking? How might ecopoetics inhabit a mode of collective and collaborative inquiry, a form of radical pedagogy?

In his opening remarks at the conference, Jonathan Skinner pointed out that a central dimension of ecopoetics is “what happens off the page,” both in terms of “where the work is sited and performed” and in terms of its reception — what happens, that is, not only within but beyond the bounds of a given work. Performance, conversation, collaboration, collective research, active investigation of materials and specific sites: such methods, prominently on display at the conference, foreground ecopoetics as “field work” whose aim is the development of new literacies.

Dean Drummond (1949-2013)

photo: Mike Peters

The world swirls around me
It's a mystery I'm here at all
The world swirls around me
It's a mystery I'm standing here at all
Got a telegram from eternity
Said it was time for me to call


There's no time like the present
And the present's already gone
No time like the present
And the present it's already gone

The Lermontov translations (2): 'My Demon' & 'New Year’s Poem'

Transcreations from Russian by Jerome Rothenberg & Milos Sovak

[The first installment of the Lermontov translations can be found here. The translations in their final form are dedicated to Milos Sovak, without whom there would have been no chance even to start them. (J.R.)]


My Demon

 To line up his evils & yours

is his pleasure black clouds
smoke drifting by.


How he loves these ill-fated

storms, this white water,
those oak groves that rattle


& roll. Among its sere leaves

a throne planted deep
in the earth unmoving

Martín Adán's 'The Cardboard House'

The poet's novel

Martín Adán’s The Cardboard House — this text is exactly what I imagine when I ponder the question, what is a “poet’s novel?” It could be called a novel. It could also be called a suite of prose poems. The language is both precise and conjuring.  

“The sun: a rare, hard, golden, lanky coleopteran.” [1]

Coleoptera, or beetle, from Greek, meaning “sheath” and “wing”  sums up nicely an aesthetic approach I am trying to locate within the larger realm of the form. Poet’s novels are somehow sleek, narrowed, compressed, with a density akin to poetry, and also with the possibility of flight often more difficult to locate in prose. Prose fiction can be beholden to plots, turns, developments which must unfold.  Not so with poet’s novels which defy categorization and move with the freedom of verse.  In The Cardboard House, sun is a character, as is the afternoon, sky, boyhood, sea, cities, etc.

 I knew I was well ensconced in this fluid concise text when I read:

Geraldine Green: From 'Poems of a Molecatcher’s Daughter' (redux)

[Taken from G. Green, Poems of a Molecatchers Daughter, Palores Publications, Editor Les Morton, Cornwall, UK; reprinted in Poems ands Poetics (December 19, 2011) as an addendum to Outsider Poems: A Mini-Anthology in Progress.]

Sal Madge

Sal Madge lived down Rosemary’s lonnin’
Sal Madge wuz a Gippo
Sal Madge wuz dirty
Sal Madge Sal Madge
wi’ ‘er pipe an’ her spittin’
Sal Madge wi’ her singin’ ditties
her bratful o’ coal she’d gathered from’t beach
down by t’docks at Whitehevven.
Sal Madge wuz a wanderer