Queer Desire, Nature, & Myth in Ecopoetry
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Nature is often a compelling source for poetry, and has been since the Romantic era. The relationship between humans and nature has always been complicated, and has been further complicated by the Anthropocene, the era of geologic time where significant human impact on Earth’s environment has come to the forefront of knowledge; particularly with the acknowledgement of anthropogenic climate change and environmental damage. In this project I am attempting to explain the influence of ecopoetry on my poetic style, form and content. I am also exploring primary drivers for my poems, including queer desire, and mythological figures and themes. In my poems, all of these things fit together, and I am analyzing the relationships between the influences that have dominated the pathways my poems have taken, including exploring ecocriticism, the work of distinguished poets, and close readings of my own poems. Ecocritics Lynn Keller and Timothy Morton, along with the Romantic poet William Wordsworth, offer together a framework that can be used to navigate ecopoetry and its large but personal areas. For many poets the best way to explain emotion is through nature; and the best way to explain nature is through emotion. Poetry is a strong vehicle for combining those two approaches. With the background of the personal and impersonal, the vast and the small, the natural and the artificial, seemingly opposite ends of the spectrum meet together in ecopoetry, which is something I am accessing in my own poetry. I have read several books of poems that fall into the realm of ecopoetry and unique poetic voice, namely Nature Poem by Tommy Pico, Sea Change by Jorie Graham, feeld by Jos Charles, The Trees The Trees by Heather Christle, Poemland by Chelsey Minnis, and Styrofoam by Evelyn Reilly. Pico and Charles have a queer background to their nature-themed poems, which makes them all the more relevant to my project. Graham, Christle, and Reilly are poets with unique voices that are writing into the space of the Anthropocene, not necessarily from a queer perspective but from a deeply personal perspective. Minnis’s poetry draws on distinctly personal experiences to create a space of jarring images with more modern and urban imagery, which makes for an interesting comparison to the other work I have read and to my own work. For my poetry, nature has always been a vehicle to express emotion and desire. When I first began to write poetry in high school, I began with imagery of vast objects like the ocean and celestial bodies in outer space. Vastnesses like these seemed to be the only places I could give myself for the depth of feelings I was just beginning to tap into, in terms of my mental and social development, and the discovery of the fluidness of my identity as a queer person. It was all very overwhelming, and it felt almost too much to go into detail about the reality of my situation and the impressions of the world around me. It was easier to sink into spaces that are far away and distant, and unknown, like how I felt about myself at the time. When I first came into my poetic voice, I was also drawn to love poems, as many poets are. My love poems had the desired subject as a clearly defined person, often of fictional making to stand in the place of a real person, as there were feelings I did not yet know how to realize in my own life. I shied away from my desire, especially desires for other women, and for my own gender fluidity; I had a great fear too of reckoning with my queerness while still being attracted to men, and seeing myself as not quite a woman. I was not yet ready to explore the complications and nuances of myself, and my world. The language I used was more plain and direct, but the subject matters were held at arm’s length. Since then, my use of nature in my poetry has evolved into something else. I began to focus on visceral nature imagery, like dewdrops on leaves, and petals crushed underfoot. I made detailed observations of my direct surroundings. The language I used had to change to accommodate much smaller pieces of a larger picture, and very specific moments and impressions that were unique to me, and yet still part of something greater. I began to shape language around details, as a way to capture my specific emotions or observations. At times smaller images would be contrasted with larger, more abstract “natural” concepts as characterized by Timothy Morton’s hyperobjects, which will be explored later in detail. I would say that I was writing about hyperobjects vaguely when I first started writing poetry, without knowing what they were or comparing them to smaller points. Hyperobjects and awareness of the Anthropocene became present in my work when including larger concepts of climate change, environmental damage, changes in water chemistry, and species loss, and those are just the concepts tied to ecology and environmental science. I experimented with the poetic concept of ‘dailiness’, or journalistic poetry that makes the everyday more profound. Writing every day, I began to form my own style as a deeply personal catalog, using language I would often use just to talk to myself. This imagery and background for my poems came to the forefront and became a wealth of material for me to tap into. Even still, any encounter with the external world provides some inciting moments for me to work with. As an introverted person, being outside and in nature alone provides an opportunity for reflecting and a space to process difficult emotions, to live in them, and to heal.
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