“So much depends on seeing the things of our world afresh by saying them anew.”
–John Felstiner, “Can Poetry Save the Earth?”
Poecology came to me as a slip of the tongue. I was speaking with a friend over the phone about poetry. Before I could finish the word, ecology interceded. Poecology was born.
The idea of Poecology comforts me: the fusion of poetry and ecology brings two of my great passions together. Ecological writing is nothing new, but I think there is much left to be said about the idea that poetry, and all writing for that matter, can influence physical ecology. When the idea for Poecology came about, I started seeking answers to long-held questions: How can literature shape the places and environments that inspire writing in the first place? What can I do to take part?
With the support and encouragement of many, Issue 1 is being released into the world. I’m grateful to many individuals for their part in helping make this project a reality—most significantly, Judson Wilson, Robert Ricardo Reese, Brianna Anderson, Murray Silverstein, and the authors who entrusted me with their work. Without their help and the cheering of a community, Poecology might still be stuck on the tip of my tongue.
My hope for Poecology is to promote writing that explores human connections to place. Breaking the hybrid word back into its parts, we get poetry, or more fittingly, “poiesis”- and “ecology.” “Eco” from Greek, translates literally into “house.” And “-ology” as we know, means “the study of.” Thus, ecology can mean “the study of a house.” This translation reveals something wonderful about ecological writing—it is the study of our built environments; our habitats, human and non-human; and our globe. “Poiesis” from Ancient Greek means “to make, create, or bring into form.” What we have, then, is the study of how we give form to place. As a result, Poecology is a publication of creative writing that explores the innate link between our thoughts, actions, our creative works, and the environment.
As submissions for Issue 1 trickled in during the Spring of 2010, the theme of human “place” in a greater ecology surfaced again and again. I found myself drawn to poems and stories that contemplate the very human responses to the ways we inhabit the world. Here you will see that anger is present, as is sarcasm, ambivalence, irony, wonder, and the highest form of joy.
Each piece in Issue 1 responds to the theme in a unique way. Mark C. Jackson’s poem, “You wanna save the Earth?” offers the portrait of a man who walks into Best Buy and is confronted by world of gadgets, sound, and walls of flat screen TVs. He emerges from that world and is confronted by the existence of an “other” world; two young environmental canvassers urge him to stop and “Save the Whales.” The speaker in Laura Edgar’s “The Baths Bones” steps into the ruins of a 19th century seaside bathhouse and imagines the magic of its once decadent pools and slides. In Giancarlo Campagna’s poem, a solo bicyclist encounters a coyote whose quick appearance and disappearance conjures up the spirit of a lost friend.
There are darker narratives here as well. In particular, several works explore deep psychological aspects of current environmental issues. Evan Winchester’s “The Problem with Owls” enters into the explosive controversy surrounding Spotted Owls in the Pacific Northwest, revealing how the development of a particular mindset (in a particular place) can threaten the legitimacy and survival of an endangered species. Lenore Bell’s “First Chance to See” tells the story of how a geneticist’s dubious scheme for “ecological renewal” is thwarted when animal sociobiology won’t cooperate with human will.
Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry Magazine, writes: “Let us remember that in the end we go to poetry for the reason that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy them.”
If literature can prevent us from destroying the world to which we are bound, if it can enrich our understanding of the places we inhabit, it is my hope that Poecology will be a small effort in support of the cause.
I’m excited and honored to release Issue 1. I hope you find in it work that conjures, provokes, and motivates you. Thank you for reading!
August 31, 2011