Monday, January 23, 2006

Notes from the Ecopanel at the Bower Poetry Club 

Wanted to share with you what Brenda Iijima wrote to me about the Ecopanel last Saturday afternoon at the Bowery Poetry Club in NY.

Wish I could have been there,

Hi CA:

The ecopanel was stimulating!

I felt that it was an active way to reinvigorate concerns for the environment as it intersects with language . Each presentation was an enactment of activating, activist language that sensitively formed interconnections with outstanding issues concerning the health of the ecosystem. Via each vital delivery I felt very certain that language is a living function that has agency. It is fortifying and generative to note the kinship and community that developes out of these discussions. Here are the statements I collected prior to the panel event. They are brief overviews of what each person offered up. As well, Ed Roberson read poems suffused in the understandings and participations of these concerns--really heartfelt, humanistic work. Evelyn Reiley gave a poignant introduction to the subject, ecopoetics. I wish that these forums could happen on a more regular basis because it is definitely a productive way to counteract dogma and such an event shakes up ideas that have become stolid, empty of any charge.


In my paper, I will be trying to suggest ways to ground a poetics in non-Cartesian spatial practices. I am particularly interested in the work of Henri Lefebvre, especially his concept of rhythm analysis (not as musical "beats", but as a "spatio-analytic" approach to the production of space). I quote him here: "The whole of (social) space proceeds from the body, even though it so metamorphoses the body that it may forget it all together -- even though it may separate itself so radically from the body as to kill it. and The passive body (the senses) and the active body (labor) converge in space.."

I will also be using as source material a book by Michael Steinberg called "The Fiction of a Thinkable World".

If this at first seems distant from the topic of ecopoetics, it will be one job of my paper to show that it is not. At base, here, at least in my mind, is capitalism on a global scale, so relentless in its extension of the reign of profit, as to render any other conception of value obsolete. How can we avoid, as cultural workers, replicating the mistakes of Romanticism, which served ultimately as a rhetorical screen for the economic, political, cultural and material rape of the planet (both human and non). I think the only way to avoid this is to ground artistic and cultural practices in a (social) world outside of the text.


"Side-lighting: If Nature is Writing" I want to propose the necessity of the re-insertion of the person into the environment at all levels of discourse and action. And I believe that writers are well-positioned to activate this shift in representation by resisting/exposing traditional linguistic and ideological constructions of a passive "environment" which can somehow be acted upon--either in the name of destruction/exploitation or salvation/conservation. As Silko reminds us, acts of storytelling establish the possibility of communion between differing versions of the truth; therefore, writers have the power to create spaces for new stories and representations of this world where humans and nature, history and the present, are not separate.


"Taking Gilles Deleuze's claim that 'the book is not an image of the world...[i]t forms a rhizome with the world' as my starting point, I will argue that the ecocritical debate over the representation of the natural might be fruitfully oriented towards questions of environmental justice, i.e., the association of environmental disasters with human social problems. Further, we have important poetic-historical models of such experiments with integrating subjectivity and ecology. The polarizing, isolationist language President Bush recently used in speeches about the natural devastation in New Orleans, for example, can be historicized against the integrated language of subject and natural disaster in such poets as Emily Dickinson and Lorine Niedecker, who show how entangled the issues of justice towards the environment and justice towards humans must always be."


I would like to consider language in regards to the environment by thinking of two bodily analogies: prosthetics and phantom limbs (and resultant pain: causalgia, phantom limb pain and the neuralgias). How technology and eradication (racial, environmental) fit into this discussion. Language will be considered as intermediary between time and space, body and mind and all other dichotomies that disrupt a flow of interconnection amongst the labyrinth organism that is life. This talk will cite Elizabeth Grosz’s book, Time Travels: Feminism, Nature and Gender as well as refer to the United States’ historical beginnings, the anglo-fication of this land. Susan Howe’s recovery poem Melville's Marginalia and Kamau Brathwaite’s book, Middle Passage will be introduced.

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