Friday, March 05, 2004

"No Ideas but in That Which" 

Wednesday night's Ecopoetics panel presentation at the Writers House indirectly offered a parting gift to those in attendance. It was in the form of a question- Just what exactly is (or isn't) ecopoetics? Flurries of post-event discussion about an ecology of poetry went into the wee hours at a less formal gathering over drinks at Doobie's.

Marcella Durand & Tina Darragh read from a collaborative essay they've been developing, with partial source texts that include news & science magazines, Angus Fletcher's New Theory for American Poetry, Making of the Pre by Francis Ponge, & Michael Zimmerman's Contesting Earth's Future. Zimmerman is an interesting connection between Darragh & Durand. Tina came to his work as an examination of his struggle with Heidegger's past, hoping to find new perspectives in addressing the difficult relationship between postmodernism & bioethics. Marcella studied ecology under Zimmerman, & he pointed Durand in the direction of poetry. The essay's ecological exploration is a system of confrontations, lulls, stop-starts & disruptions that turn the subject/object literary relation to environment on its ear. Marcella read from The Anatomy of Oil, a project inspired by a cross-country road trip. Durand addresses the ecologies of oil & economies that shift or destroy them. Tina read from Opposable Dumbs, an investigation of racism & sexism in the animal rights movement. Darragh draws particular attention to the parity of missing language, That is, the animal language humans can't decipher, & vice versa. Dismissal of such parity leads to what Darragh calls "the bracketing of equality."

Jonathan Skinner envisions his ecopoetics as a writing, reading & editing exercise (he edits Ecopoetics- a bi-annual literary journal). He read from his Political Cactus Poems, some of which are pre-theorized, coming from a love of cactii as much as a poetics of ecology. Skinner played his walking environment tape recordings & read text in between the noise as an intention of interactvity. There is a question of what the integrationist possibilities could be if he had read during the sound, as opposed to "during the breaks." Skinner writes what he calls Tope Sonnets, a watering hole for people to come together , take in the poems that seek to "politicize the landscape, & landscape the politics." As an editor, he looks for three things- field format, hand (or script) of the writer, & a visual component. Each of these are what makes his journal so interesting. Skinner envisioned his publication to be a return to the journal, more than just a random collection of poems from friends & colleagues. He edits with the ecological concept of "edge effect" in mind, a method of study of diverse communities not as within a single system, but many systems effected by each other. Skinner's ecopoetics is a kind of border study, & his journal serves as a site for artists on the edges of their communities.

CA Conrad asked the panel about Nicole Broussard's place as an ecological poet. Skinner cited her work's importance as an ecology of the body, while Durand sees Broussard being "a poet of place" (Montreal). Bob Perelman asked for a framework around "ecopoetics"as a term, questioning whether Frank O'Hara & Charles Olson are eco-poets. The panel agreed with that they were, yet retreated from fencing in the term. Quite possibly, bordering & framework could be obsolete, or at least contradictory in ecolgical poetry before long. Ecopoetics seems to be more interested in studying the border than creating one. I look forward to future issues of the journal, and further attention to the edges beyond traditional landscape- a poetics of information ecology & mental environmentalist poetics.

Frank Sherlock

* post title comes from Darragh & Durand's collaboration

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