‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

Vis a Vis

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There is a Canadian Poet/Writer/Theorist that we just read in our Environmental Writing course. Erin and I just presented on him last week, also wrote our term papers on him. Don McKay is a poet, writer that everyone should check out. We wrote and presented on “Vis a Vis”, a selection of essays on nature and poetry as well as his theory about our relationship to the environment. I’ll briefly explain some of his thoughts, keep in mind I’ve been writing and talking about him for two weeks now and I’m a bit tired of him, not to say I dislike him, just exhausted on the “materiel”, so what follows is pretty basic and reductive. If you do like what I’ve written below and have some interest, please check him out, he’s a fascinating writer. Koop, I’m talking to you brother…I know you’ll love him.

He has this rather interesting idea. What he defines as “Materiel” (notice the spelling, not to be confused with material). Essentially it is any “thing” that we use up, use up in the extent that we as humans go so far as to even deny “it” the possibility of death. For example, consider an island that has been used to experiment upon for nuclear testing. After we have used this island, what is left? We have denied it the possibility of it naturally eroding, it’s social use and utility have been taken from it, it can no longer even return to nature or the environment from which it came, it has lost its “wilderness/wildness”.

The example he uses in a very figurative and literal way is this bird that he finds dangling from a fence wrapped in baler twine. McKay was taking a walk one day and then found himself confronted with this dead raven wrapped in twine hanging on a fence. The raven he sees has clearly been shot, not for any hunting purpose or ecological study, just shot, and to make it worse it has then been displayed as this symbol, but for what? The human that did this has denied death to this raven.

Kinda depressing eh… Well he resolves his essay by asking us to pay attention, “poetic attetentiveness” is what he wants, for us to understand our place in the world, to understand that language is a system we create in order to understand an “other” nature that is in essence written in its own language system.

There is nothing wrong in going out and finding inspiration while walking in the woods, but to turn that inspiration inwards, like Romantic poets such as: Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Keats, etc… the poetry ends up becoming about the man, about the poet, this is not what we want. Let nature inspire you, be aware that any environment in which you find yourself in has a sense of “wilderness/wildness” in it.

As I said, I’m reducing much of his theory, mostly because I’m exhausted on the theory itself, but I do love his work enough to want to share it with you, my friends. (Fuck, now I sound like John McCain. Anyways, go out and find a copy of this or any of his other work for that matter. He’s an interesting ecologist/writer/poet. Very concerned with our connections to nature and the implications of this relationship.



Written by thebeliever07

October 9, 2008 at 8:54 am

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