Circumnavigating the Globe through Ecopoetry
When I read over the poems in Issue 2, I travel. These poems circumnavigate the globe: the streets of Hong Kong. The suburbs of Atlanta. The High Desert of Eastern Oregon. El Salvador. New York City. Pedro Point, California. Alaska. The Whanganui River, New Zealand. Rural Michigan. Bogotá, Colombia. I hitch along as a stowaway in the backseat of a Peugeot in Cairo. I spot a strange bird, the Pauraque, in the Rio Grande Valley. I am visiting the land of the Utes in the mountains near Telluride, Colorado. I am smelling roses along a village road in El Salvador, remembering La Matanza. I am backpacking in the White Mountains of eastern California, in search of one of the world’s oldest (known) living organisms: Methusaleh, a 4,844 year-old bristlecone pine tree.
Each poem in this collection searches for a human place in the natural world. Or vice versa: the poems often seek the natural world in human places. For me, Poecology means letting poems, stories, and places talk to one another, and for that conversation to draw the reader in, and out into the world: Come, see this bird with me, come down this path. What greater ecologies these pieces will collectively form is limitless. One of the greatest aspects of ecological writing is this: as language and places change through time, so does meaning. Capturing places and their stories throughout time is the mission of Poecology. Perhaps one day, the bristlecone pine will go extinct. Or the Pauraque. Or the Whanganui River– tunneled and dammed beyond recognition. And when these places and species go, what will also be lost is the memory of how they once were. Unless, of course, we take steps to record and protect them.
Like members of an ecology, the writers presented in Issue 2 are attached and/or exiled from their places in unique ways. Camille T. Dungy’s poem is fixed in place, and yet in motion: “I barnacled myself to the jetty. / When the tide rose I arched / into the ocean, black back parting water.” Or consider how the speaker in Christopher Miles’ “Tornado” watches a wild natural air show from some sheltered place: “To see such thrust, such lift, alofting house-lids / and heifers, pickup trucks and telephone poles: / all blown in the haze-grey sky-gyre.” What many of the poems in this collection have in common is attentiveness to the peculiar lives of natural things: insects, lichen, trees, geysers, faults, the aurora borealis, and, in the end, the ever-present us, searching for meaning in them.
Issue 2 surprises me at every moment. I hope you’ll be as surprised as I am. I hope you’ll circumnavigate the globe in these pages and find new answers to the question – “What is the ecology of X?” – or “How can a story or a poem capture the ecology of Y?” And perhaps in these pages lies the answer to a bigger question – “What can writing do for place and ecology?” A line from the interview with Camille T. Dungy begins to scratch the surface towards an answer: “When we release our poems into the world, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to shape and protect and record and reveal the places we know and the places we want the world to care about.”
Thanks for reading Issue 2. I hope you find in it a place worth protecting.
August 31, 2012