Sunday, January 29, 2012


A Postmodern Sublime

Eco+poetics is not Nature poetry. If traditional Nature poetry is a 
meditation on (the pastoral beauty of) a landscape, eco+poetics 
describes both the bird and the bulldozer. Not a transcendent 
prayer nor a travelogue, it denotes an invasion. If Nature poetry 
colonizestracks and contains a wildernesstraps it in dichotomy 
(Nature vs Humanity), if it is predatory and voyeuristic, eco+poetics
is a provocation; it is cinéma vérité.

Writing a poem is a little like terraforming, making use of available   
resources to create an artificially assembled and self-sustaining 
ecosystem of thought. It's elements (a poem) interact with an 
environment (readers and their sociopolitical context) to leave a 
lasting impact, it's meaning. 

James Englehart in Ecopoetry Manifesto describes eco+poetry 
as connectionAnd while I don't agree with everything he declares, 
I accept his notion that it is; 

"a tension between numerous disciplines that surround it - an  interdisciplinary creature, whose purview includes science and the arts." 

Eco+poetics implies a call to action, implores stewardship,
and upholds an ethos of concern; the poet-observer as an 
agent for environmental change. The poet-observer as a
postmodern moralist, and the poet-observer as activist.

In today's climate, there is no current landscape, no 
ecosystem that is untouched by the clang of human 
intervention, by technology spiralling out of control, 
toxic by-products soaking the edges of everything. 
Writing a poem about Nature that ignores its politicization 
seems hypocritical

An 18th C. notion of the Sublime fears and reveres Mother 
Nature, holds it up as magnificent and powerful; it reveres
the beauty of a hurricane. But an eco+poetical sensibility 
implicates a Revised Sublime, populates a wilderness with
(the calamity of) people. This leads to awesome spectacles 
of ecological disaster, surreal devastations of war waged 
on a landscape even if bathed in breathtaking sunset. 
Revised Sublime contains this tension as a warning
It is a complex beauty entangled in power, like oil on 
water or acid on earth. 

Eco+poetics presents an environment-in-crisis aa tool 
for political change. It insinuates interconnectedness, and
begs for redress. Maybe it is a desperate plea to 
expand the Golden Rule into a higher consciousness, 
an (innate?) need to apply equal respect to every 
non-human life. A nod to the Nepalese for their 
respect for all life, and in great reverence for   
aboriginal values, a Revised Sublime exposes the 
impact of large-scale human activity on ecosystems. 
Beginning simply, with the form of a poem, and 
transcending through pipelines past hungry polar 
bears, it rises through noxious air in one interconnected 
breath. Conversely, Richard Lowe's scheme to get-kids 
back-to-nature implies that we have somehow left it. 
Really?! Separate? As if ...

An eco+poetic message reminds readers that bulldozers 
and birds share the same air. Aware of the poet/poem/poetics 
(and all related industries from lumber to EMFs), it soars
beyond itself to become the voice of change within a larger 
literary 'ecosystem', a habit of mind that recognizes unavoidable 
connections between the complex sociopolitical realities of 
culture and natural ecologies. And taking it further, then 
wages war. 

As it turns out, anyone with lungs and breath has a voice 
(if not a responsibility) to defend an ethos of interconnection,
to terraform new habits of mind, one word, one breath, at a time.

Simple, really.


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