Of the relational local (2 of 2)

A petri dish of ecopoetics, continued


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). The conference presentations of these participants, together, suggested to me a common set of gestures. These are detailed this previous commentary post (part 1) and the commentary post before that.

Participants were invited to respond to one or both of these questions: 1) An ecology is at base the relationship between organisms and contexts. Any poem is an ecology: embedded in poetics is the relationship between organism (poet) and contexts. How does writing poetry inform your sense of ecological relation — either as an organism in the world or in the poem?; and 2) How does rooting your poetic practice in a particular place/environment/ecology influence decisions about the shape/rhetorics/subjectivities, etc. in the poem, etc.?

Participants Respond (the second of 2 groups): 

In discrete instants I feel deeply what’s around me, what I’m in. In BELEAVE, a project for threatened forests of my home landscapes of the Southern piedmont and coast (and beyond), I mark and express the cumulative effects of many such sensings, and call on scientific work on introduced species that damage or kill ash, hemlock, chestnut, and other species. The work returns me to primary listening. The forms the poems are taking — charms, traps, odes, others — emerge in part from the preferences and needs of their first intended audiences, not all of whom are human. What might a tree population like in the way of environmental conditions? In the way of music and rhythm? — Anna Lena Phillips Bell[’s recent work includes A Pocket Book of Forms, a travel-sized guide to poetic forms, and Forces of Attention, a series of printed objects designed to help people mediate interactions with screened devices. Editor of Ecotone and Lookout Books, she teaches creative writing at UNC Wilmington.]

Poetry opens space for metaphor, the conjuring of one thing by referring to something (often entirely) different; it is fundamentally about relationships and thus inherently ecological. Ecologies are also always growing, but in tethered and tissued-together ways, so insisting upon new, affective, metaphor(s) is to insist upon new ecologies. Poetically, I don’t distinguish between “the world” and “the poem,” instead operating in and through them both, at the same time, so the two — or perhaps us three — are inseparable. My sense of place has a tangible force, a materiality, shaping the contours of whatever I am writing. In Geographies of a Lover [https://newestpress.com/books/geographies-of-a-lover], ecological landscapes be/came words be/came orgasmic rush be/came poems. – Sarah de Leeuw[’s Geographies of a Lover (NeWest Press, 2013) won the 2013 Dorothy Livesay Award for Poetry. With a Ph.D. in geography, she teaches and undertakes research on medical humanities and health inequalities, and divides her time between Prince George and Kelowna, Canada.]

In After-Cave, I engage a feral poetics to trouble narratives of domestication and enclosure.  A narrator – adolescent, female, possibly human – traverses a landscape of ecological distortion and industrial decay in search of shelter. Along her way she encounters habitats of ruin and abundance which are made hospitable through the feral thrum of flora, fauna, and language itself.  The narrator articulates these spaces as sites of resistance, allowing her to imagine new communities and futures. “we are either all together or else we are all alone.” – Michelle Detorie[’s After-Cave is just out with Ahsahta Press. She also makes visual poems, poetry objects, time-based poetry, and curates the public art project, The Poetry Booth.]

Situated at the convergence of myriad other forces and agents in the world, opening and closing the gates of attention, connections take shape as language and form. How fluid is a poem? What does it risk overlooking in its rigidities? I let go of ‘self’ as source and situate attention farther afield. I spend years tuning my sensory organism, finding ways to accommodate that knowledge in poems. My long poem “Participant,” part of a collectivity of “Yard Works” (even as they exceed the boundaries of my back yard where this attentiveness took root) begins to satisfy a desire for a rewilding of ‘self,’ place, imagination. I want to challenge abstraction as the erasure of the real. See/honor what’s everyhere. – Linda Russo [is the author of this commentary. Her bio may be found on the right sidebar.]

A move to Alabama, a most biodiverse & under-protected place. Gary Snyder: “Find your place on the planet. Dig in. Take responsibility from there.” That possessive pronoun.  Who wields possession? Imagine “‘Emplaced and Multiple’: Mobile-Bay Watershed excursions for new poetic works,” pursuing attachment to bioregion, situating my unescorted female body onto public lands, getting dug in[to/o].  Disidentify with a man-made “me”, the mesh of history and culture deployed through human subjectivities. Engage the lyric for hearing the here here. Open to selves, 13 as guide, 13 syllables, 13 lines—see: lunar calendar, earth, snake, beast, death, transformation, the end of something, renewal, rupture, that is to say, change. – Heidi Lynn Staples [is the author of four collections, including Noise Event (Ahsahta, 2013). With Amy King, she is co-editing Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoetry Thinks Climate Change, ‪forthcoming from BlazeVOX.]

undercurrent, speaking with/nearby water

staying with the trouble via haraway & tsing, learning from matsutake & feral biologies—both wondrous & dangerous—in mass extinction what we do still matters. make kin wisely

no resurgence for anyone unless there is indigenous resurgence

gratitude to the unist'ot'en camp, where you can still drink directly from the wedzin kwah river. wet’suwet’en clans are blocking eleven pipelines from accelerating canada toward mad max violence, the petro-state where big mean men own all the water and everyone else huddles in dust. unist'ot'en says: love the forests, protect homelands with our lives

tahltan land guardians in the sacred headwaters

because land is pedagogy - via leanne simpson – Rita Wong [lives on the unceded Coast Salish territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Her newest book of poems is undercurrent (Nightwood Editions, 2015).]