Ecopoetry is poetry with a strong ecological emphasis or message. Many poets, poems and books of poems have expressed ecological concerns; but only recently has the term ecopoetry gained use. There is now, in English-speaking poetry, a recognisable subgenre of ecopoetry.
Prior to the term, a number of poems had ecological messages. Although these poets did not mention the word, they were clearly ‘Ecopoetic’ in stance and exerted an influence on the subsequent subgenre. Examples include: The White Poem by Jay Ramsay & Carole Bruce (Rivelin Grapheme Press, 1988), Bosco (Hearing Eye, 1999; 2001) and (more recently) Heavy Water: a poem for Chernobyl (Enitharmon Press, 2004). Early publications also include The Green Book of Poetry by Ivo Mosley (1995, Frontier Publishing and Harper San Francisco, 1996 as Earth Poems). It includes over three hundred poems from around the world, many translated by Mosley, and helped to define and establish the genre.
One of a number of seminal texts helping to introduce the term into wider, critical use was Ecopoetry: a Critical Introduction edited by J. Scott Bryson (2002). Another example of the burgeoning use of the term at the millennial turn was the journal Ecopoetics, which broadened the term from poetry into poiesis interpreted as making or writing more generally.
Since then, a spate of poetry anthologies and books has appeared, either employing the word explicitly or using the idea as a guiding principle. Recent instances include Alice Oswald’s The Thunder Mutters (2005), Forrest Gander & John Kinsella’s Redstart: an Ecological Poetics, and the ground-breaking Earth Shattering: Ecopoems, edited by Neil Astley at Bloodaxe Books (2007).
One of the chief characteristics of ecopoetry, as defined by James Engelhardt, is that it is connected to the world in a way that implies responsibility. As with other models that explore and assume engagement (Marxism, feminism, etc.), Ecopoetry is “surrounded by questions of ethics”.
As a means of describing poetry or poetic projects that embrace the ecological imperative for personal sensitivity and social change, ecopoetry has been cited by such writers as John Burnside and Mario Petrucci.
The recurring theme of the poems of ” Ecopoetry ” is nature and its preservation.
The eco-poet is not the singer of the Nature of Arcadia or of classical bucolic poetry, but it is he who detects, in addition to beauty, the problems that upset it. The enchantment of a pristine landscape plunges the poet into the peace of the unity of creation, but at the same time gives him the awareness of his responsibilities for its conservation.
“Ecopoesia” is therefore an attempt to express in verse the awareness of this interconnection with nature, as well as the work of those who draw and report emotions from within, identifying with the entities that populate it; the tortured animal, the uprooted secular tree, the entire Earth speak directly and send their message of alarm or pain through the verses. As the English poet Helen Moore writes
“May Gaia our Great Mother, speak through me… may I be a channel, a conduit for Nature’s words!”
The poet thus becomes a spokesman for the environmental emergency and establishes a new and equal relationship with Nature, passing from the anthropocentric perspective to the biocentric one.
As Jonathan Bate writes “The poet must have the ability to give us back to the Earth which is our home”.
In the “Ecopoetry”, next to the traditional empathic and purely emotional poetic communication, fits the rational moment of the awareness of the environmental criticality of our planet and the need to remedy it.
In this way we try to overcome the prejudice of the bipolar thought of the last century which established a clear separation between reason and artistic creation.
According to the Canadian poet Di Brandt having separated these two realities has created a schizoid conflict in expressive capacity, a conflict that today must be repaired through (“reparative thinking”) that is an interconnected way of thinking and feeling capable of involving at the same time, rationality and feelings and generate a multidimensional artistic expression that is close to the sensitivity and cultural formation of today’s men.
Poetry, with the power of its suggestions, should thus regain its role as a communicator of collective emotions.
“Ecopoesia” is also characterized by its specificity in the expressive form. His poetic form is part of a reality marked by globalization and interculturality and, deliberately, uses a simple and clear poetic communication, understandable to all cultures – therefore also easily translatable – to spread among an increasingly wider audience and communicate and share the values of your time.
According to the Spanish poet Luis García Montero, “A poem that aspires to be realized as a living genre and able to create meaningful emotions… useful to remind us that history is lived only in first person and to teach us that this first person is involved in reality and has ethical responsibilities “. To do this, a poetic language is freed from linguistic artifices and accessible intercultural communication.
The “Ecopoetry” has established itself especially in the world of Anglo-Saxon culture, where the commonality of the language, the greater sensitivity to environmental problems, has meant that this cultural movement spread like wildfire, in a short time, from the States United, to India, from Australia to Canada. And it is in Canada, at the “Brandon University”, that a research post on “Post-postmodern Ecopoetry and Poetry” was born.
The American poet Gary Snyder, essayist, writer and environmental activist and the American poet Mary Oliver, whose poetry of Nature is undoubtedly among the most inspired, can be considered among the precursors of Ecopoetry. Among the most recent exponents: the poet and scientist Mario Petrucci and John Burnside and Alice Oswald.
There are literary journals on the subject, among which the best known is “Ecopoetics” edited by Jonathan Skinner. The text of literary criticism, ” Ecopoetry – A critical Introduction ” by Scott Bryson, professor of English literature at “Mount St. Mary’s College” in Los Angeles and one of the most authoritative and expert literary critics of ecopoesis, is fundamental. He is currently preparing a new anthology of ecopoesis and biographies on ecopoeties.
Of great importance are the two poetic collections and the numerous anthologies of Neil Astley (English author and director of the Publishing House “Bloodaxe Books”, he founded in 1978) and in particular that published in 2007, entitled “Earth Shattering – Ecopoems “.