What will poetry be in ten thousand years? (1)

Angela Hume

Cueva de las Manos — Santa Cruz, Argentina, ca. 7300 BC

Post-ecopoetics is a guide for thinking the longevity and durability of the poem in deep time. I have asked a number of poets and scholars to serve as additional guides by asking them to respond to the following questions: “What will poetry be in ten thousand years? If you wrote a poem that you knew would last ten thousand years, how would this impact your writing?”

Each of their responses will be posted as an individual commentary linked to this series.

Angela Hume:

Imagining a future, let alone poetry, ten thousand years from now requires thinking the afterward of our present crises. A worst-case scenario: planetary conditions in many thousands of years will no longer support organic life as we know it. But human consciousness will continue to operate, albeit as code on servers, not neurons firing across fatty gray matter. To imagine this future, one must think beyond bodies made of mostly water, blood, tissue, birth, and death. One must think the afterward of ears and eyes, hair and nails, lips, fingers, tongues, and nipples. A world without brains, lungs, and hearts. Without others, without other qua other, without otherness. Thus, a world post love, sex, ethics, and freedom. Mind of those with power and capital at the right time, maybe no more than one hundred years from now, will get to survive, data amassed on hard drives, maintained by AI and powered by the sun, never having to “die”: a body without organs even after the end of the world. It will turn out that we won’t have had to fear the annihilation of that which we value most, even more than “life”: self-consciousness, beloved ‘as’-structure, awareness of ourselves as ourselves, here.

The poetry we know now, like everything else ever digitized and electronically filed away, will live on in a collective “memory.” Best-case scenario for a worst-case scenario: the poetry we do not yet know will be what ultimately takes it — despotic amalgamation of human self-consciousness committed to code — down for good. Poetry will be the glitch in the program — a bug, a hack, a crack, a (metaphoric) lysis, anomaly or error, spinning pinwheel heralding the system’s crash — allowing the planet to go quietly, finally dark. Poetry will return us to our finitude, one thing it has always done.

A best-case scenario/happier projection: in ten thousand years some human beings (not just poets) will have long ago taken up eco-poiesis, or ecological (re)making — a poetics of reforesting, conserving water, growing just enough food, building solar panels, reusing, and distributing more equally environmental benefits and hazards — thus enabling the survival of many. Let’s write poetry today … pragmatic, idealistic, empathetic, polyvocal, choral, lyric, dreamlike, interruptive, antirationalist, anticapitalist, composted, translative, remedial, restorative poetry — let’s do all things today in such a way — that will help us imagine what such making might look like.