What will poetry be in ten thousand years? (8)

Dale Smith

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.

Dale Smith:

Ten thousand years is a test of imagination. By then the time of the body and the temporal duration of my individual consciousness will have been absorbed into a large plume of smoke or have been consumed wholly into the earth. There is no posterity. I would hope the poetry of ten thousand years to come circles backward and inward to the poetry and ritual of ten thousand years past. That the caves of the earth and the caves of the mind continue projecting images over stone and bone and skin and grass or tree. Poetry is an accident of consciousness ritualized for the occasion of bodily mediation in language. I don’t know what happens to “us” or language or writing beyond the particular tools of our era, from wax tablets to vellum to Gutenberg or Xerox or Apple. Those tools transform, merge, fall out of usage. Like bodies they are finite. I don’t have the mental capacity to see ten thousand years into the future. I have the spiritual capacity to know that future and past coincide here in words arriving now as I type. Time is an illusion punctuated by the kinetic pulses of my body and the temporal changes around me. Every day, here, as the images of this world cohere, are life forms advancing, coming slowly in writing toward coherence. What does ten thousand years mean to a boy wounded today in Mosul? Or to the boy buried with ritual skins and flint points, fetus-like next to his mother dated ten thousand years past? Poetry now or past or future — all compressed down to now — is the energetic potential for seeing and hearing multidimentionally — not to correct or change things — but to acknowledge limits of conditions of our sympathies. A poem is a made thing, any object of wonder. Imagining ten thousand years away from now is a way to reflect on that wonderment.