What distinguishes ecopoetry from nature poetry?
Many of the tribute poems in the George Stanley Issue of TCR are not only ‘regional’ poems (with that moniker meant in the best possible way, as in: ‘poetry of place’) but bioregional. Which is to say they encompass aspects of the natural landscape that are defining features for a certain geographical region.
A few of the contributions even veer (momentarily, at least) into the sub-genre of ‘ecopoetry’ – a poetry that not only references the natural landscape, but acknowledges (or implies) a certain responsibility in our relationship to it. Unlike generic expressions of nature poetry, ecopoetry is embedded in an ethical context.
From Rob Budde’s “Tankful”:
We send raw logs, fire them
straight out to China
(me, little, trying to
dig there—like the trees)
& buy the kids meals
with plastic toys made in China
(the logs clog the system
in return) &
deflation occurs not at a point
of political catharsis
but upon the collapse,
Examples of ecopoetry can be found across the centuries, of course. But the notion (and label) of ecopoetry has picked up currency in recent years as the ecological crisis heightens along with public awareness and concern.
Many literary journals have produced an ecopoetry issue in the past three years. And in 2009, Sudbury-based Your Scrivener Press published Regreen: New Canadian Ecological Poetry, an impressive anthology featuring 33 poets addressing environmental matters. (Full disclosure: I am one of the contributors.)
This coming March (2012), the inaugural Cascadia Poetry Festival will be held in Seattle to explore and celebrate what unites those of us living and writing in this bioregion, which extends from northern California up to the Alaska panhandle. I’ll be there moderating a panel of women ecopoets from the Cascadia bioregion.