old words

I wrote this in April 2011. But never posted it. A crisis of confidence?

ecopoetics volume 2

I’ve been asking the wrong question.

I find this difficult to write. I must be trying to rush, or thinking too much.

The essay bothers me because it is too much inside poetry, and too much inside our time.

It does not put poetry in the right place, and thus reinforces the same view it critiques. The view that Contemporary Experimental American Poetry is a thing, a force, a “poetry.” In contrast with “Traditional Nature Poetry.”

To check in on some of the main points:

  • deep and intrinsic change within its own poetical structure

Structures are multiple and they arise out of the poetic process. This process is wired to human capacities, which favor certain structures over others. Poets can always invent new poetical structures, and even ones that look like ecological processes, but that does not mean they will resonate or inform any gathering.

  • a more experimental ecological poetry, one that begins to take into itself ecological processes, as well as ecological concerns

I am all for modeling cultural processes after natural processes. This at least means we’re paying attention. But I hope I would never confuse a cultural process with a natural process. Certain things, like soil, are more fundamental than poetry.

  • a levelling of value between and of subject and object

Wishful and dangerous thinking. Stepping past the bonds of self is a demanding spiritual process, not something you wake up and decide to do in the interests of better poetry. Better acknowledge that we are not free, and work from the standpoint of our self-interests as humans on this planet.

  • concentration upon spaces and landscape leads to poetry; poetry leads to further concentration upon spaces and landscape.

Her emphasis on concentration is valuable. In a later version of this essay published in the ecolanguage reader, the concept of concentration is elaborated and the word “meditation” is used. I’m not sure this is part of poetry, but maybe a prerequisite to poetry. There is a missing element though: imagination. Concentration itself does not lead to poetry.

  • allow that [moral] intent to spark the poem into being—it’s the key to the ignition, but then you let the car go

Intent is a scary topic, I’m afraid to touch it. I prefer to focus on openness during the process (letting the car go). The ability to accept influences. There are so many analogues in nature, for example, weather.

  • Association, juxtaposition, metaphor are how the poet can go further than the scientist in addressing systems….you can do it in a way that journalists can’t—you can do it in a way that is concentrated, that alters perception, that permanently alters language or a linguistic structure.

This section of the essay seems tacked on at the end. In one quick swoop, it rehabilitates some of the structural elements of traditional poetry that were earlier maligned. Maybe proving my point about structure.

There’s a whiff of hopefulness there at the end, a structurally obligatory affirmation of faith in the power of poetry. I don’t buy what she is selling, at least not in the form that she is selling it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.