Sunday, November 23, 2014

Comments to eco-poets Allison Cobb, Steve Collis & Brian Teare

Dear Allison, Steve, Brian:
Sending this before I head off for another bout of protesting the UHM budget cuts. The conversations have been fascinating. Some thoughts, not intended (in the least) as criticism, but as participation:
--[Allison Cobb's power point on plastics & her research on them highlighted the networks that join us & our plastics.] The emphasis on connections that you all make: as someone interested in how to write about spirit, which inevitably means connections, links, I find myself getting swept up into a kind of negative sublime here. How does one write about spirit-connections without using the words of the world, matter? How can one do it while acknowledging the insufficiency and destructiveness of so many connections, while finding ways to honor those we feel on our meditation pillows?
--Perhaps one way is to value attention over attachment. The meditative poem pauses long enough to notice, but does not stop, does not reach out to take the thing or idea and put it in a sack like plastic rubbish. Plastic is the opposite of meditation. I can imagine a Clark Coolidge-like "The Plastic Text," instead of "Crystal," even as the content would necessarily be different. The notions of "desire" and "grief" and "fear" are all attachments. We can feel desire for plastic as easily as for a flower. It's hard to realize that we need to let go of both flower and plastic, if perhaps in different ways.
--According to Steve's important work, the way those of us are non-indigenous have to connect to the land may be by way of the idea of the commons. But don't we need to separate that out from the fact that rich aristocrats could send their horses across the commons to hunt foxes in 18C England? That that historical period was also fraught with chasms between rich and poor, employer and toiler? That the commons was perhaps not a solution, but another wedge between anger and action? How can we create a commons not attached to bad economics, but to what Steve later called "a basic level of care for all human beings" that our societies ought to provide?
--Is poetry then a rubbish to energy project? Or is analogy itself, Eliot's catalyst, suspect now? I  I switched from poetry to prose poetry at the point at which I found the drive of my poems to be toward abstraction (a gathering of objects toward an idea) rather than as a consideration of the world in front of me. That tension remains in the spaces between the sentences, and I can't seem to live without it.
--I wonder where Allison sees the end point of research into the car part that generated her project, Autobiography of Plastic? If you could find the very hole in the ground, what then? Back to considerations of origins (which we tend to value) over what comes after (which we tend to suspect). As an adoptive mother whose children both know members of their birth families, I understand both the lure of origins and the significance of the families that come after. I honor my children's ancestors, but I am their parent. The adoption of the car part is quite profound, to my mind, because it exists apart from its definite, marked history. It enters the world of the mystery, again miming the spirit, without being part of it.
--So I'd come at this from a spiritual and an adoptive poetics. Adoption need not be appropriation, though many people come at it from that angle. Spirit need not discard the words of this world, though we do need to be suspicious of Emersonian gyres of meaning that fail to address material problems on the ground.
Sorry if this seems redundant. But I needed to think it out a bit this morning. Finding your visits wonderful and various. Just wish they were not in the "deep, dark November" of the semester's soul!

aloha, Susan

PS This has been revised from an email sent to the poets a few days ago.

1 comment:

JS said...

Lovely and thought-provoking comments, Susan. Thanks for sharing a bit of your visitors' visit this way. Must have been a great conversation.