From David McCloskey:
From David McCloskey:
A reading from the first ever anthology of Cascadia Poetry was held Wednesday, June 24, 2015, at Milepost 5 in Portland. At the beginning of a heat wave at the end of summer is NOT an idea time for a reading, but thanks to anthology poet and longtime Portland literary activist and barefoot reader dan raphael, as well as Duane Poncy and Patricia McLean of Artists Milepost 5, the reading happened at a really wonderful venue in a part of Portland that more people associate with fast food haunts than artists. But dan raphael had a family emergency with which to deal, leaving Duane and I in charge of the show. So here is the audio I took with my trusty IC recorder. Enjoy.
Rest in Bebop Heaven Jamie Reid.
Great review of the Cascadia Small Press Fair at the last Cascadia Poetry Festival in Nanaimo, and specifically of the Book Art of Marilyn Stablein. Mary Ann Moore writes:
What is a book to an artist, is the question some may ask Marilyn. She sees the book as
artifact, the book as celebration, the book as chance discovery, the book as found object, the book as travellog, the book as sacred space, the book as cultural relic, the book as ritual object, the book as sculpture, the book as visual poetry, the book as personal geography, the book as object poem, the book as intimate museum, the book as personal narrative, the book as poetic cartography. Don’t you love that list? And that’s just a beginning. (I’m a fan of “intimate museum.”)
See the whole blog post here: http://www.maryannmoore.ca/small-press-fair-2/
• For info on new McCloskey’s new Cascadia map see:
• Click here to see how the map was recognized as “Map of Year” by Esri (GIS leader)–
• New maps may be ordered directly from this link.
And do enjoy David McCloskey’s opening comments at the last Cascadia Poetry Festival in Nanaimo, BC, May 1, 2015.
MAKE IT TRUE: Poetry from Cascadia
Edited by Paul Nelson, George Stanley, Barry McKinnon and Nadine Maestas
Poet Christine Lowther of Clayoquot Sound opens the door to poetry from Cascadia in this brand new anthology launched at the Cascadia Poetry Festival at the beginning of May in Nanaimo.
In Lowther’s poem, Nuu-chah-nulth, Good Advice, the decolonization of “my mind,” aligns very nicely with co-editor Paul Nelson’s introductory words about the “wilderness of the mind.”
Lowther writes: “I’ve been advised not to study / French or Spanish, rather / to stand still, make roots from words, / take in the language of the place / I’ve made my home.”
Standing still, listening, observing, witnessing are all practices of the eco-conscious poets in Cascadia. They “take in the language of the place.”
Cascadia is a bioregion spanning from Cape Mendocino in the south to Mount Logan in the north. It is that “bioregionalism, or the effort to reimagine ourselves and the places where we live in terms of ecology, sustainability and harmony with the natural systems” that inspired the four editors in the book’s creation.
Paul Nelson, founder of the Cascadia Poetry Festival, is from Seattle as is co-editor Nadine Maestas. George Stanley (born in San Francisco) lives in Vancouver; Barry McKinnon is from Prince George. The work of all four is featured in the book.
Cascadia is at the edge of the continent and poets are “at the edge of things” as Maestas pointed out in one of the panels in which she took part at the festival. And as Nelson says, “It is the poetry of outsiders who are forward-looking.”
As outsiders and poets on the edge, these critics and celebrants have been climbing mountains, protesting threats to Cascadia’s thousands of miles of coastline, and helping to save its ancient trees.
Susan McCaslin of Fort Langley, for instance, initiated the Han Shan Poetry Project, a successful campaign to protect an endangered rainforest along the Fraser River.
Simon Fraser University professor Stephen Collis protested Kinder Morgan’s field studies at Burnaby Mountain. His poems in the anthology include The Insurgencies.
Poets that took part in “the bioregion’s most seminal poetry event, the 1963 Vancouver Poetry Conference,” are part of a “generous sampling.” They include George Bowering, Daphne Marlatt, Fred Wah, Jamie Reid and Judith Copithorne.
Poetry took on its ceremonial cloak of mourning and remembrance as Victoria’s poet laureate, Yvonne Blomer, hosted a tribute to Peter Culley at the Cascadia Poetry Festival.
Culley, a photographer, art critic and poet, died April 10 in Nanaimo. He referred to his area of the city as South Wellington and took photographs to document the landscape of the former mining community.
His longtime Nanaimo friend Kim Goldberg (whose work is also in the anthology) and his publisher Rolf Maurer of New Star, were among those sharing memories of the Culley who contributed two poems to the book.
In northern British Columbia, Sarah de Leeuw writes of “Copper River,” known as such by the “settler locals.”
From her vantage point in Yukon, Clea Roberts writes in Cold Snap: “The simple arguments / of juncos retreat / into the forest.”
Dennis E. Bolen of Vancouver uses wordplay in what has been called a “highly physical vernacular style” by Jamie Reid, one of the original five editors of Vancouver’s TISH magazine in the early 1960s.
The bioregion is home to the vernacular and Seattle’s Robert Lashley is another who uses the very real, gritty language of the street, the bar, or in the case of one of his poems, “the club.”
He was a fierce competitor at the Marmot Bout, a late-night, spoken word slam at the festival.
As the Pacific Rim configuration is subject to “the influences of Japanese and Chinese philosophy and religion,” Zen poets Jim Dodge and Sam Hamill are included in the collection. Hamill, who is the founding editor of Copper Canyon Press and a celebrated translator of ancient Chinese, Japanese, Greek and Latin, was a headliner at the festival.
“I say, the trees listen, / and even soil has mind,” Hamill writes in his 11-part poem, Habitations.
From Alaska to Arcata, from Nanaimo to Missoula, the 89 poets in this Cascadian collection explore, preserve and celebrate the mind’s wilderness and the wilderness of this place. As community artists they “encourage the best in each other.”
Canadian Metis/mixed-blood writer and arts activist Joanne Arnott reminds us, in An Impressive Array, to remember our bodies as part of this place: “our bodies / are the mark of our passing, our bodies / are the soft earth of self and the panoply / of thought streams and disruptions, the / culture-tangled nots and knots and naughts / our bodies are the ground of our beings, and / the playing field of our minds … “
Mary Ann Moore, a Nanaimo poet, writer and writing mentor writes a blog at www.apoetsnanaimo.ca.
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Anthology+poetry+from+Cascadia+celebrates+sustainability+harmony+with+nature/11093961/story.html#ixzz3chm7oLSI
“Rewilding Poetry” Panel
By way of contributing to today’s discussion about the possibilities of “rewilding” (or, as I prefer to say, “re-worlding”) poetry, I would like to make a few observations to start with. One is a quotation from a book published in 1986 by Andrew Ross called The Failure of Modernism: “Poetics can no longer be regarded as the innocent haven for ‘wild’ philosophy or ‘wild’ politics which modernist poets claimed as their special privilege, but rather as a set of different and often conflicting discourses that are ideologically produced and therefore irreducible to any particular poet’s ‘vision’.” This describes pretty much the trajectory that poetry went on to take for the next three decades. Few poets now write without consciousness that discourse is ideologically produced and that they themselves inhabit, or are inhabited by, subject positions that are as distorted and unethical as the discourse they are situated in. Despite the fact that successions in poetry are part of its history of continuing renewal, and no poetic succession ever goes completely obsolete, what one poet calls “periodically recurring sweetness of heart” could be, I think, a welcome interregnum today. And perhaps a re-wilded, or re-worlded, poetry could find a place within contemporary poetics, affecting both poets and readers in a place where maybe it IS the “innocent haven for wild philosophy” that Ross accused deluded “modernist” poetry of being.
However, I feel cautious about the prefix “re,” implying an era of wild poetry either tamed and corralled, or displaced by domesticated monocultures, much as wild land has been; and that could, if elements of the wild ecology were re-introduced, revert to a wild condition. In practical terms, this might entail introducing the vernacular into a thickly abstracted lexicon; or vice versa; or using pictorial or scenic imagery to “disrupt” an appropriated text; or vice versa. These are techniques meant to mirror a dialectic. Larger versions of this dialectic (reformation, counter-reformation, restoration) have plagued modernity until neoliberalism vanquished them all and we are now thrown into a dark ages of ubiquitous empire. Except there are no uncolonized margins left. Everywhere is in the state of becoming a neoliberal monoculture, via technology, economic seduction, and/or brute force. As worldlessness consumes the earth, our attention is drawn to globalized cyberspace, if not to outer space—where, if we are lucky, we might run into the late Sun Ra, who said he was born on Saturn and whose musical composition “Space Is the Place” should be our global anthem.
By “the world” I mean the public world, the world we share in common. We are encouraged to think, however, that such commonality is a socially constructed fiction. We do not share a world, it seems to say, but rather there is a “we” that excludes others, a “we” to whom all wealth, power, and security are owed. The communities we belong to are communities of tastes and brands. As we cling more and more to our finely parsed identities, what we take to be the world is more and more a totality of fractalled and fracked surfaces. The ground opened by poetry, on the other hand—by the world-making activity of poeisis—restores us both to the world and to one another. The late Robin Blaser, who was very much concerned about the disappearance of the public world, as he thought along the lines suggested by Hannah Arendt’s work on totalitarianism, noted, “The public world has to do with the depths beneath the surfaces in which each simple, separate [and I would say “innocent” and “wild”] person swims—the rhythmic relationships by which one can notice that the surface is violent.” None of this has escaped the notice of poetry. Young poets today must write in such a vast and slippery territory, including the world-vaporizing currents of both neoliberalism and academic suspicion of imagination and spirituality (unless safely ensconsed within indigenous methodologies).
It seems to me that poetry’s de-wilding has been accelerated by top-down academic avant-gardism and its demand, similar to that of the corporations it now must service, for constant “innovation” (but with the caveat that the innovations also deploy “ethical” attitudes and activities, as its evangelical wing the Ted Talk also does). Avant-gardes used to be scandalous; now they are merely au courant. By re-branding former repressive rhetorical structures as “constraints” and by freely borrowing the discourses of other disciplines—usually cultural and critical theory—contemporary academic poets are redefining as wildnesses (that is, innovations) poetry’s traditional generic limitations and returning it to democratic speech. Here, the way to reclaim poetry’s life, to “rewild” it, is to pursue conceptualism. An urgently-required critique of dominant discourse (the discourse that also excludes earth and nature except as instrumentality) is in this way accomplished. But where I think the conceptual move has perhaps not quite delivered as far as rewilding poetry goes, is where it enacts a curation of discourse, the poem a proxy for the de-centred, voiceless, visionless subject. The poem is now without an unconscious, without depths, although its constituent words and referents are teeming with it.
This is not to dismiss the thought, passion, and knowledge driving a needed reaction to a poetry increasingly enervated by the plethora of “workshop verse” and conventional magazine verse. The blindnesses and complacencies of mainstream modernist lyric poetry have been decried for decades, and very recently Junot Diaz in a New Yorker article criticized the unbearable whiteness of creative writing programs. But there also exists a large contingent of informed and talented poets working on their own, although they will have aesthetic and personal alliances and claim a place in certain lineages. They are continuing to write the poetry that, as Gary Snyder put it, “lingers in the mind.” What San Francisco poet Duncan McNaughton referred to as “sweetness of heart” strikes me as a possibly interesting move toward a re-wilding that I believe is constantly trying to take place anyway. Sweetness of heart, McNaughton says, is “what is really common to our desirous souls, the quality which overcomes all barriers in order to circulate anew the heart’s creative feeling among men and women, who have more than enough reason to despair.” To radically expand the field of feeling seems an unintended ongoing work of any poetic practice of the wild.
I am interested in the nature of poetic imagination, or as Blake had it, poetic genius, which transcends the relative merits of anybody’s individual poem. Someone once said that even unpublished poetry has an effect on the world. I would say that poetic imagination is similarly alive in an infinite number of human feelings and interactions—with art, with nature, with each other, with spirituality, with language.
We have all seen representations of rewilded humanless cities, with vines hanging off the highrises and panthers draped over defunct signage, but this is not what we mean by the quest to rewild poetry. What is, or was, wild poetry? I suspect it would be poetry that speaks to us directly and openly, despite interiority of vision, or of distance or difference of time, space, and body, or formal peculiarity. There is presence, and with presence, unavoidable complexity of the poet’s sense of reality. Robert Duncan felt that poets were indeed on a “wild and far-out quest, albeit equipped with a pathetic compositional technology.” Yet, he says, no shrewdly imposed technology can work for long or at depth. Duncan felt that poetry was not interdisciplinary, that it couldn’t beg its ethics from other disciplines, and that the real audience for poetry, in the end, was human DNA. As a reader or a listener, I have often enough had a feeling of my life being made more vivid and real by hearing or reading a particular poem. I feel, quite literally, that I can go on. These are the poems that as Gary Snyder says “linger in the mind” and the body, and are part of the gift exchange that has turned out to be the ethos and spirit of this Cascadian event. This is the magic, the wildness, the innocence, the ecology of poetry, which is to say of poetic imagination. Poetry, the sound imagination makes in language, is always to our deepest communal benefit.
© SharonThesen, 2015
by Susan McCaslin
From our new website section, Perspectives…
“You may say I’m a dreamer
but I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
and the world will be as one.”
John Lennon from “Imagine”
The Cascadia Poetry Festival in Nanaimo, British Columbia (April 30-May 3, 2015) was a rich conjoining of ecologically-minded poets from the States and Canada who identify with the richly diverse bioregion named Cascadia that stretches from southeast Alaska to northern California. The premise of the conference was that our common grounding in the land—in place—allows us to transcend political lines and demarcations; that as poets, we are part of the larger ecosystems that flow within and through us. David McCloskey, geographer, and founder of the Cascadia Institute, presented a map of Cascadia, decades in the making, delineating the geographic history of this bioregion. David spoke eloquently of how sea, land and sky form an integral unity.
A related theme of the conference had to do with “linguistic mappings.” B.C. poet Robert Bringhurst, known for his translations of Haida epics, observed that languages are ecosystems, revelations of the ecologies of the earth. He proposed that school children should be taught at least one aboriginal language. These indigenous languages, he urged, need to be preserved not only for First Nations communities but for all. Entering into the language, myths, and stories of the First Nations could deepen our ways of seeing, knowing, and being in the world.
While I applauded I thought to myself: now we’re into big, deep-time dreaming. During the response period, I commended Robert for his thesis, but questioned whether such a proposal might seem “utopian” to many, especially in light of the current cuts to education in BC. I could practically hear my daughter, a young educator in the BC school system who worked with aboriginal children as a tutor, saying: “I’d love to see this happen, but it’s not very likely right now. Maybe we could start by introducing kids to more of the indigenous myths and stories.” Bringhurst pointed out that aboriginal languages are already being taught in some Canadian universities. His response reminded me that big dreams and visions begin with incremental steps. The focus needn’t be on near-term outcomes, but on doing what must be done to bring about restoration. Okanagan poet Harold Rhenisch commented that Cascadia has long been a place of utopian colonies and dreams.
When I taught English at a community college in the lower mainland of B.C., I offered a course on dystopian and utopian literature. Dystopian literature explores recognizable terrains of hellish enclosure. George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, and Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy spring to mind.
Yet it is utopian rather than dystopian literature that continues to draw me in: Plato’s The Republic, Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, William Morris’ News from Nowhere, and Ursula Le Guin’s Always Coming Home. The inventory stretches on. Despite utopian imaginings and actual experiments, we haven’t had the kingdom of heaven on earth, at least not for any great length of time. When Plato tried to enact historically the ideas expressed in his Republic, Dion of Syracuse, the young man he trained for the job of being the first philosopher king, morphed into a petty tyrant. Plato’s utopia seemed flawed to me because it excluded the poets. The notion of philosophers ruling appealed, but only if they lived up to their names as “friends of wisdom.” More often the adage “power corrupts” seems to apply.
One question I’ve pondered for decades is: Why do utopian experiments generally fail? From Brook Farm in nineteenth-century New England, to Coleridge’s dream of Pantocracy, to the Finnish utopian community of Sointula on Malcolm Island off Vancouver Island (founded 1901), these forays into in alternative living generally fall prey to economic crises, clashing egos, power hunger, and cultishness. In a recent documentary written and directed by Jerry Rothwell on the Greenpeace movement, How to Change the World, what fascinated me was not only the amazing story of how a small group of activists succeeded in stopping the whale hunt, but how the various leaders soon fractured into vying factions.
Some might say the problems all come down to “human nature,” meaning the propensity of humans to act out of egotism, self-centredness, greed, and the desire for power rather than empathy and a sense of commitment to the public good, not just the public good for humans, but that of other species and the planet. Ecological poets sense these various dimensions can’t be separated. I’m not the only one to feel that the human species is in the middle of a collective crisis where we either transform and reverse our mass destructiveness, or hasten our extinction through our desire for unlimited development.
Even though utopias mostly fail, we require the unfettered utopian imagination. Environmental activist and Buddhist teacher Joanna Macy speaks of “a great turning” where humans might join together to put their creative energies, their collective imagination for a better world into action. I don’t know whether we have reached a place where it’s too late to turn things around, but, whatever the case, we have to try. Big dreaming isn’t based on prediction or certainly, but on envisioning alternative realities. The capacity to counter-dream the cultural malaise is innate. William Blake proclaimed, “Imaginary things are real.” What I think he meant is that if you can imagine something, it is a perceptual reality in some dimension of being. We live not knowing outcomes, but with awareness that how we act and how we choose to be matters.
Etymologically, the word utopia means “nowhere,” not a topos or place. A cynic might counter that utopias are projects based on wishful thinking. Yet another way of looking at “nowhere” is that it is a place that begins within the heart (so is at first invisible) but reaches everywhere. Some think of utopian notions as mere mental constructs, abstract, static, and unrealizable. But what if utopian visions of nowhere are indeed everywhere, forged in the heart and reified in the bloodstream? Perhaps true utopias aren’t plucked from beyond, out of the sky, or out of our heads, but arise within us through our connection with the earth itself. Perhaps they aren’t idealized places free from conflict but places where creative energy lives within the tensions and paradoxes in order to forge newness. If this is so, then utopia might just be the “no place” that is a “here and now place” within consciousness and within the world. If we walk into the woods, the forests, into what remains of wilderness, we might begin once again experience the world directly and realize that it is we who have removed ourselves from paradise. From there the journey home might begin.
“Poetry makes nothing happen,” a statement by W.H. Auden often lifted out of context, can be misleading. Poetry consists of words and language at their most vital— lamenting, praising, singing— and has the capacity to change everything. We have the desire and the need to place our creative gifts, our offerings, among the orders of the other creatures and larger eco-systems to which we belong. We all have poetry in our mouths and in our bones. The first cry of an infant is a poetic utterance, an om of being containing all sounds. Our poetic yawps and howls are participations in the poem of the world, a mystery which is constantly emerging out of silence into fuller articulations of being-in-the-world.
Susan McCaslin is a Canadian poet who has published thirteen volumes of poetry, including The Disarmed Heart (The St. Thomas Poetry Series, 2014), and Demeter Goes Skydiving (University of Alberta Press, 2011), which was short-listed for the BC Book Prize and the first-place winner of the Alberta Book Publishing Award (Robert Kroetsch Poetry Award). She has recently published a memoir, Into the Mystic: My Years with Olga (Inanna Publications, 2014). Susan lives in Fort Langley, British Columbia where she initiated the Han Shan Poetry Project as part of a successful campaign to save a local rainforest.
Just thought I’d let you know that, as Robert Bringhurst rightly pointed out when he responded to my question from the audience at the Cascadia Poetry Festival, bringing indigenous languages and world views into the education system is happening right now in universities in Canada. So the notion isn’t as “utopian” in the pejorative sense (as unrealistic or difficult) as it might seem. It’s happening now. See this article that appeared in today’s Vancouver Sun where Wab Kinew is quoted extensively:
Is there a way to post my above remark about this issue with my previous blog on big visionary dreaming?
All the best,