Against Use

(The Difficulty of) Writing Nature Poetry in an Age of Environmental Crisis

In: Modern Ecopoetry
Catherine Woodward
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A piece of hybrid writing combining criticism, poetic theory and prose poetry; this chapter analyses my own practise and environmental aesthetic as an ecopoet/nature poet/political poet, as a way of engaging with the question of how contemporary poets write, must write, might write about “the natural world”. This chapter is at once anxious and positive, constructive and critical.

Through a discussion which includes analysis of my own writing as well as original poetry, this chapter considers the problem of writing about nature in a way that takes account of our alienation from nature and our complicity in its destruction in a neo-liberal, late-capitalist westernised world. The chapter outlines an environmental aesthetic which has emerged from my practice and centres upon the ungraspability of the remainder in what we call “the natural world”, the remainder being that which escapes the anthropocentric view, that which cultural constructions of nature cannot contain or account for, that which refuses us. I attempt to reconcile this remainder by writing a version of the natural world in which it is possible for us to recognise ourselves, as opposed to writing an imposition of ourselves onto the natural world; this represents two different tactics of lyric troping. This chapter ultimately wrestles with the urgency for and difficulty of writing nature poetry appropriate to its object.

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Modern Ecopoetry

Reading the Palimpsest of the More-Than-Human World

Series:  Nature, Culture and Literature, Volume: 16
  • Introduction Finding a Compass to a Commonwealth of Breath


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