What will poetry be in ten thousand years? (2)

Adam Dickinson

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.

Adam Dickinson:

The unpredictable expansiveness of poetry precludes any certainty when it comes to particular forms and contents. However, I suppose one can be certain that if there are humans then there will be poetry and it will continue to inhabit the edges of what is sayable and knowable, regardless of whatever repressive political or cultural forces may exist.  

I can only assume that poetry in ten thousand years will be what it is now: an attempt to shift frames and scales of conventional forms of signification in order to bring into focus the neglected, alternate, inscrutable biological, geophysical, and cultural writing intrinsic to any historical moment.

In some ways, I already approach my writing on the timescale you have proposed. It’s not that I expect the writing of Adam Dickinson to be relevant in ten thousand years, but that I am interested in writing through, with, and into processes that operate on far-reaching timescales. The microbes have always been with us, even as they have evolved and shifted in concentrations over time (I love how the anaerobic environment of the lower intestine is similar to the atmospheric conditions of early earth). Metabolism and its endocrine disruptors are at once immediate and long-term: the chemicals we live with and that affect our bodies will be with us for many years to come (whether through contaminated soil and water or other forms of bioaccumulation). We’ve already known mercury to be a neurotoxin for a thousand years. I see no reason we won’t still be carrying it inside our bodies in ten thousand years. Certainly our heaps of plastic will still be poking into us for ten thousand plus years. I think about these time-scales right now as I write.