Angela Hume, Gillian Osborne, and Margaret Ronda

Field notes from the 2013 Conference on Ecopoetics

'Between that disgust and this': Trash talk at the Conference on Ecopoetics

by Angela Hume

Paul Klee, "Angelus Novus" (1920)
Paul Klee, "Angelus Novus" (1920)

Trash. Garbage. Junk. Waste. Refuse. Rubbish. Detritus. It was on everyone’s mind at the Conference on Ecopoetics. The dreaded contradiction: With a gathering of 250 of even the most environmentally minded poets, scholars, educators, and activists comes, by the end of a long weekend, a heap of trash — empty cartons and wine bottles; used paper cups, napkins, and towels; soggy tea bags and even some food waste (in the English lounge, we ended up with one to two large bags of trash by the end of each day, excluding recyclables). As we all know, it’s impossible to travel, convene, eat, and live in our society while not, at the same time, creating waste. And despite a 50-year-old modern environmental movement, today we send greater amounts of rubbish to landfills and incinerators than ever before.[1]

That said, Conference on Ecopoetics participants made an admirable effort to keep waste to a minimum. Almost everyone drank their water, coffee, and tea from reusable water bottles and travel mugs. If anything, trash was of foremost concern — and this fact was certainly reflected in panel, roundtable, and seminar presentations and discussions.

'grasses' meet 'monster owl': On the UC Davis Satellite Event with Jonathan Skinner and Brian Teare

by Gillian Osborne

Yarrow seed
Yarrow seed,

In the UC Davis Arboretum, common yarrow (Achillea millefolium), a “companion” plant, has many uses and many names. Along a sculpted river topped with scum, warblers disappear and reappear in native and non-native shrubs and branches. Brian Teare and Jonathan Skinner are talking about ecopoetics: the poems of Ofelia Zepeda, “emergency,” and Lee Edelman’s No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. We stop to smell the sages and the yellow puffs of acacia.

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.