Ecotopia, Nature, Poetry

Speaking of Edward Burtynsky, China, ecotopia, the struggle for a “nature poetry” that bears witness…this call for papers for a conference in China titled Beyond Thoreau: American and International Responses to Nature came across my desktop this morning and looks very intriguing indeed. I wonder if any poets will apply to attend??

I’ve spent some time this morning flipping through a few Canadian literary journals and am somewhat surprised to find the world so in tact, so whole, so not in trouble. No, there is no problem with the “natural world.” Not a trace…we see small birds skirting our days, fields where we learned to drive, blueberry bushes we pick from, oh, a deer looking meaningfully at us, post-coital sandhill cranes, more gardens…”this is how a world gets made,” begins one, and ends…well you can guess.

Meanwhile the artists are responding, as I said yesterday, in a big way. The second ICP Triennal of photography and video titled Ecotopia, offers up more than a dozen artists who are out in the world, really engaging with the planet in the way that Edward Burtynsky is… Mary Mattingly’s images of a futuristic hunter/gatherer tribe still sees the individual at odds with landscape, and in response to far off forces–not nature but industry:

In Mary Mattingly’s vision of the future, the trappings of civilization have been largely set aside, and a generation of nomadic postconsumers roam the landscape of a water-bound Eden. These “navigators,” as she calls them, busy themselves creating and utilizing adaptive technology.

Mitch Epstein photographs sources of pollution. Very eerie. More playfully, but no less powerful, is the work of Mark Dion who sets up various cameras on his property in Pennsylvania and catches wildlife interacting with them. Yannick Demmerle offers us photographs of a forest at night, again very eerie and otherworldly. These are a few favourites, but the whole show is stellar–the catalogue at the very least worth a look.

Again I ask where are the poets?? Now, to be fair, this morning’s read was a random sampling, but a shocking one too. I know there are Canadian poets out there who are dealing with these issues, and I won’t say that there are easy ways to deal with these issues, but what else should we be writing about? I’m wondering why visual artists seem so able to make tremendous leaps though, to show us things in such striking ways that we are shaken to our roots…when is the last time a poem did that to you?

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