A recent invitation to a conference on “Ecocriticism” has me thinking about some definitions.
I’ve always been uncomfortable with the term “nature poetry.” It seems to instantly conjure up images of some effete versifier with a quill pen regaling us with adjective-laden descriptions of flowers and sunsets. The problem with this, is that singing of the beauty and inspiration of nature often ignores the fact of our destruction of it. Bad nature poetry uses the natural world for its own selfish end, much as a mining operation or lumber corporation does. When it comes to the natural world (or any world for that matter) mere “observation” or “appreciation” offend me. The Subject/Object fallacy lies about the seer and insults the seen. You need to get your hands dirty, revel in the muck, risk losing your domesticality. In other words, don’t talk “about” nature; be nature. Connect.
I think that’s what Ecopoetics does; what separates it from nature poetry. In this sense, I think writers like Roethke, Gary Snyder, and Jim Harrison are absolutely not nature poets. And I hope that my work puts me in the same category (not in terms of ability, but of method).