The Dangerous Pronoun: An Ecopoetics of 'We'

Dr. Cathy Peppers
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I will present a sample of my poetry as a contribution to an American ecopoetic tradition. Contemporary nature writing reminds us that human culture is also part of "nature," often shifting the speaker's relation to nature from "sublime" to "immanent." My writing seeks more to "speak with" rather than "be inspired by" nature.

I take my presentation title from Richard Sennett's "The Corrosion of Character," expropriating it from his sociological analysis of the costs of capitalist culture to an ecopoetic context. "We" is a dangerous pronoun when it hides histories of internal conflict under false or superficial commonality. But "we" can also allow a scene of conflict, as between human culture and nature or between art and science, to become a community by giving voice to "shared narratives of difficulty" among creatures of unequal power or with differing interests.

I live on a farm in Idaho, an "irrigated Eden" on the edge of a wilderness of sagebrush steppe and lava flow. Composing poetry-layering the languages of myth and science and folk idiom-is integral to my practice of sustained rural relations and creates the "pattern language" necessary to make a place a poem. My presentation offers one example of practicing an "ecopoetics of 'we'" in articulating the shared fates of creatures-foxes and farmers, insects and an Oracle, cats and poets-who live together on this margin between "nature" and "culture."

Keywords: ecopoetics, Nature Writing, Literature and Ecology, Poetry, Rural Practice, Western U.S. Literature
Stream: Arts Agendas
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Dangerous Pronoun, The

Dr. Cathy Peppers

Assistant Professor, Department of English and Philosophy, Idaho State University

Ref: A06P0087