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What is EcoPoetry?

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

"Ecopoetics rose out of the late 20th-century awareness of ecology and concerns over environmental disaster."

A clear distinction needs to made about the difference between EcoPoetry, the pastoral poem and nature writing.

EcoPoetry is a poetic lexicon of 21st Century. Its imagery, cadence and sentiment shrinks the world till the borders between the natural world and urbanity dissipate, till we can no longer deny that we are a part of a web of existences that are wholly interdependent on each other. The Ecology of Planet Earth. As we become more aware of the direct and indirect impact post-modernist consumerist human behaviour has on the rest of the Earth, there comes a need for the creatives, the artists, the poets to develop a lexicon for the imagination to express the concerns those impacts invoke.

“My tanks were filled with gasoline and wars. I was a lead soldier. I marched against the smoke of the city. “ - Little Lead Soldiers Giannina Braschi

In response to the apocalyptic mainstream narratives, EcoPoetry leans toward the detail of our emotions toward the environment. It has an air of 'I'm missing it already' to it. As if the Earth were gone.

“Unlike traditional nature poetry, eco-poetry is unreservedly focused on depicting our intricate connection with the natural world while confronting the challenges that endanger it.” - anon.

One of the challenges we face would be the emotional overload, the grief, the overwhelm and eco-anxiety. All of this is in need of expression. These emotions are gruelling to carry and there never seems to be enough time sit and unpack the graveness of the toll taken on the body to hold them all.

And while traditional nature poetry writing tends to separate the human from the natural and animal world, so that human operates more as an observer to the beauty, the intricacies and viscerality of nature in symbiosis with itself, eco-poetry forces us to recognise that we are a part of this planet's ecology. We have a role to play, and there is much to learn about what that role looks.

“Whilst precise definitions vary, ecopoetry is generally recognized by its focus on humanity’s interrelationship with the natural world in such a way that implies responsibility, engagement and a striving for ecological integrity.” – dVerse Blog 2016.

This dVerse blog post is an interesting one, because it comes it highligt who the poetry voice was starting to acknowledged the need for new sub-categories of nature writing called environmental and ecological. Being responsible and engaged with nature writing means no more writing in idyllic slack-jawed awe of the landscape and enchantment of birdsong. Engagement involves writing with an intent to unearth what the future for this landscape and the bird whose song you admire in the moment looks like? How does the aesthetic, imagery, form and structure of your writing express a response that has emotion and a resilience to contend with the catastrophic noise in the mainstream conversations about the future of the planet?

EcoPoetry shines a light on climate change, habitat destruction, and the urgent need for sustainability and regeneration. But, it also echoes back to the pastoral with its Neptunian romanticism of the life of the shepherd and his sleepy sheep and the call of the rolling hills and verdant natural world. And of the human being a part of it – the shepherd himself was embedded in it, an organic part of those bucolic scenes. It is not the content so much of the pastoral that holds the interest of the ecopoem. The context has changed greatly. But what can be brought back from the past of the classic pastoral poem of the 1500's is the wonder of nature, and the love it inspires.

I'm delivering a masterclass program called "And Back Again" - Writing EcoPoetry which is a follow-up from a masterclass I ran for Arvon and Poet In The City this year called From The Pastoral To Dystopia And Back Again. You can find out more details about that here.




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