Observer’s Credo

Defining ecopoetry, I would begin as follows, defining not in terms of form but as an observer’s credo:

To say that I am an observer, a participant, not the end of a process of design but merely a momentary slice of time that’s wearing skin—

to begin at the assumption that I am no more important to the cosmos than a tube worm or a wood duck—

to derive my understanding of myself from what I observe and experience in the world around me, rather than to derive my understanding of the world around me from what I observe and experience in myself.

To say that a poem about the little woodswallow of Australia—one that documents and calls attention to its habitat, behavior, and appearance, gives the reader a nonfiction introduction—is of more value and significance than a poem about my own hopes or fears or discomforts, successes or failures.

To suspect the horse “knows” more about grass than I do,

to recognize that the dog’s capacity to read history and news about what’s happening now and has happened here is more developed than mine, that she has skills and information available to her that I do not.

To wonder about the decline of the golden-winged warbler, wonder how much is due to human-induced loss of habitat, how much to interbreeding with blue-winged warblers—

to learn all I can and know that I do not know—

I do not know if the interbreeding is preparatory to better traits to survive weather and environment shifts, or preparatory to extinction.

To acknowledge not-knowing,

to try to create as little disturbance as possible,

to understand more.

To view the human species as one of many,

to acknowledge that, to a greater extent than any other species, our waste products are more often toxins than nutrients, that we can rank ourselves “above” other species only in this: we are the most venomous and deadly, taking as our prey, unthinkingly and unknowingly, everything within our reach.

To recognize that, as a member of this species, I am probably a sociopath by both nature and nurture.


In response to Dave Bonta’s “Statement of Ecopoetics” and the resulting Facebook discussion.

2 Comments


  1. Excellent. This is so well put. I working on this too and you’ve given me a lot to think about. Thank you, Laura.

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    1. I appreciate the encouraging words, James — it doesn’t feel “complete” to me, but more like a marker-buoy, a way to say “we need to dive deeper here.” I look forward to reading whatever you write on this intriguing subject.

      Reply

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