Ecopoetry

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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)[1] and (more recently) Heavy Water: a poem for Chernobyl (Enitharmon Press, 2004) [2].

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,[1] 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).[2]

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".[3]

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.[4]

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