Corey Dressel

“William Stafford and Mary Oliver’s Unique Style of Biocentric Nature Poetry”

Corey Dressel

Dr. Armstrong

December 7, 2011

Eng. 609

William Stafford and Mary Oliver’s Unique Style of Biocentric Nature Poetry

            When contemporary nature poets, such as William Stafford and Mary Oliver, emerged on the poetry scene in the 1950’s and 1960’s, they brought with them an intense personal focus juxtaposed with an intense ecological focus. The result was a new form of nature poetry; one that does not recognize nature as Walt Whitman does in his “Song of the Redwood-Tree:” nature as an aspect of human experience “willingly yielding to humanity, abdicating their thrones […] to a superber race;” but rather, one that sees the interconnectedness and interdependence of humans and nature (qtd. in Bryson Ecopoetry 4).  In Ecopoetry, J. Scott Bryson offers his definition of what ecopoetry is: “Ecopoetry is a subset of nature poetry that, while adhering to certain conventions of romanticism, also advances beyond that tradition and takes on distinctly contemporary problems and issues” (5). Bryson goes on to outline three primary characteristics of ecopoetry: First, “ecocentrism;” second, “a humble appreciation of wilderness;” and third, “a skepticism toward hyperrationality” (7).  To better understand what characteristics fall under each category, Bryson has offered a more in-depth description.  The first, ecocentrism, he says, is a recognition of “the interdependent nature of the world; such a perspective leads to a devotion to specific places and to the land itself, along with those creatures that share it with human kind” (5-6).  This characteristic in poetry produces images or scenes representing the relationship that the elements of the world have; each being different from each other, but caught in the complex web of interdependence. “This awareness of the world as a community,” says Bryson, “tends to produce the second attribute of ecopoetry: an imperative toward humility in relationships with both human and nonhuman nature” (6). The dynamics of this characteristic in poetry reveal a humble approach and appreciation of nature that steers itself far away from any superiority ideal.

Bryson’s third characteristic is multi-fold: “an intense skepticism concerning hyperrationality, a skepticism that usually leads to an indictment of an overtechnologized modern world” (7). This last attribute has a didactic tone; there are warnings or instructions in the poems on the very ways humanity is forgetting and abusing nature –on which our survival depends—though these warnings and messages aren’t always overtly stated. This characteristic, when found in poems, tends to focus on questioning or condemning human’s tendency to elevate the value of rational thinking. Some ecopoets challenge this notion by asking –what is knowledge? –and can we know it? Some ecopoets directly claim nature to have a higher or better understanding of truth than humans do.  A close-reading of a selection of Stafford and Oliver poems will help to discern what they see when they look to nature for answers or to reflect on life; what their poems have to say about human and non-human interconnectedness; where their humility can be found, and their perception of human and non-human knowledge.  As ecopoets, both Stafford and Oliver use nature as the lens through which they reflect, but they do so each in their own way.  Dissecting the layers of language Stafford and Oliver use in their poetry will reveal how they each attempt to discern the identity of ecological elements as well as how they, as humans, fit in to that perception.

Stafford’s life-long collection of poetry is known for its focus on place.  Places, for Stafford, resonate with meaning; this meaning translates as reflections on the human condition, a declaration of humble not-knowing, conversations with non-human elements of nature, and an acknowledgement of the interconnected relationship humans have with the world around them. In his book The West Side of Any Mountain, Bryson quotes linguistic anthropologist Keith Basso’s explanation as to how a “deepened and enlarged awareness” is wrought from an ecocentric lens:

The past lies embedded in features of the earth –in canyons and lakes, mountains and arroyos, rocks and vacant field –which together endow [the] lands with multiple forms of significance that reach into their lives and shape the ways they think. Knowledge of places is therefore closely linked to knowledge of the self, to grasping one’s position in the larger scheme of things, including one’s own community, and to securing a confident sense of who one is as a person. (10)

Stafford achieves his poetic conversation by focusing on places such as the Midwest flat plans; the currents and twisting movements of rivers; and the messages he hears spoken by the wind, hidden in the shadows, reflected in the behavior of natural elements, and echoed in the voices of the people in his life, often times his mother.  Stafford’s 1996 poem “Spirit of Place: Great Blue Heron” exemplifies his style of nature poetry with the ecocentric lens Bryson attributes to ecopoets.

Stafford, in his poem “Spirit of Place: Great Blue Heron,” turns his focus to a lagoon where he presents a scene that is visually unclear, while representing the merging of non-human natural elements into humanity (The Way It Is 167). The title of the poem tells the reader that the poem will be presenting a scene with a great blue heron. However, the title also indicates that Stafford is presenting the spirit of a place, and through his syntactical use of the colon, he is indicating that he will be presenting the spirit of the place through an image of a great blue heron. This illustrates Stafford’s ecopoetic style of using the images of natural elements to exemplify the way he sees humanity. Stafford identifies a reciprocal equality between natural elements and humanity; likewise, he identifies a reciprocal equality between natural elements and the metaphysical ideas of spirit and faith. This poem is describing a moment when there is recognition of life emerging from the lagoon and this life, this lagoon, is reflecting the human city that lies close by.  Stafford discusses a need to have faith in this lagoon life image regardless of the fact that keeping this faith will require being tested. However, he declares that this illusive figure he sees in the lagoon has made a promise to those who can keep the faith, this promise is rooted in truth and stands in the light.

The poems begins:

Out of their loneliness for each other

two reeds, or maybe two shadows, lurch

forward and become suddenly a life

lifted from dawn or the rain. (ll. 1-4)

The reeds are assigned the condition of loneliness, as the first line indicates; but, lonely can also just mean alone, isolated not necessarily an emotion; or this could be commentary on the lonely position of what the heron represents juxtaposed against the city. Then he admits that what is being observed might not be two reeds, it might be two shadows.  This, essentially, obscures the human tendency to attribute concrete definition and value –judgment—to an observable object.  In doing this, Stafford is effectively removing his reader’s ability to assess the situation based on preconceived ideas of objects and forcing his readers to rely on sense perception.

The indiscriminate image lurches forward and miraculously becomes a life, the great blue heron. As in nature, when a heron searches for food it holds still, camouflaging itself into the natural environment around it, and moves forward in a  lurching motion to catch its pray.  Stafford chooses make the heron’s origin obscure, coming from the dawn or the rain.  Essentially, these two conditions are symbols of an opposite meaning: dawn symbolizing a new, clear, beginning, and rain symbolizing a blurred vision, a lack of clarity. The initial image presents symbols of opposite meaning as well, being either physical object –reed—or metaphysical –shadow. Stafford’s language indicates that these dichotomies are mutable.    By the end of the forth line, the only thing the reader knows is that a life has come to be in the lagoon; however, it is unclear what they are looking at and how it happened.  Then Stafford explains: “… It is/the wilderness come back again, a lagoon/with our city reflected in its eye” (4-6). Stafford directly informs his readers that there has been a return of the wilderness, and its “eye,” which would represent the wilderness’s knowledge and insight, reflects our human society as it reflects the city on the surface water of the lagoon.

Stafford attributes the believability of his message to faith:  “We live by faith in such presences” (7). There is an element of encouragement found here. Stafford’s paradoxical imagery suggests keeping faith in something that we cannot see nor understand clearly. Philosopher and Phenomenological Theorist David Abram explains this paradox:

The common field that we share with these manifold lives is a commonality of otherness, a complex, mutual entanglement of often-incommensurable powers.  To accept one’s inherence in such a darkly immanent world of wonders is to feel both one’s own remarkable power and one’s utter vulnerability, and to act on the basis of this paradox. (Alliance for Wild Ethics)

To understand ecopoetry, as created by Stafford, one needs to understand the necessity of this paradox of faith in “otherness.”  This is not a new concept for humanity, as Western religion is based on this same principal; Stafford is positing the notion that this faith in some Otherness can be hidden in the images found in nature. This is his spirituality found in the lagoon, represented by the image of the great blue heron.

Now that Stafford has set the scene and the reader has been brought to an understanding of the phenomenological ideas at work in this poem, Stafford moves into the last half of the poem. The remaining six lines bear a didactic tone that is spoken from the mouth of the heron:

It is a test for us, that thin

but real, undulating figure that promises,

“If you keep faith I will exist

at the edge, where your vision joins

the sunlight and the rain: heads in the light,

feet that go down in the mud where the truth is.” (8-13)

These lines convey meaning that transcends linear thought.  Stafford is postulating the theory that our faith in the interconnectedness we share with nature will be tested, which is simultaneously test of spirituality.  Many critics would agree with this sentiment, claiming that with modernism and the boom in industry, and therefore the mass production of commercial products, humans have fallen further and further away from their natural roots.   Author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Jungian analyst and storyteller, says, “It’s not by accident that the pristine wilderness of our planet disappears as the understanding of our own inner wild natures fades” (3).  Both Stafford and Estés see a direct link between the human connection to ecology and the human inner spiritual condition.

The heron in Stafford’s poem is representing a spiritual image, such as some humans would imagine God.  The heron represents the traditional dichotomous bifurcation of light (“dawn” and “sunlight”) and darkness (“rain” or “mud”), which pulls at an ancient archetypal understanding of the fundamental components of humanity’s inner psychic composition being dualistic in nature.  Stafford points out that the location where the binary functions meet is where our vision is capable of seeing the heron that has its head in the light and his feet rooted where truth can be found. The heron’s head cannot be in the light without its feet planted in the mud of truth. If truth is in the mud, then truth is obscure.  Stafford is making a commentary on the obscurity of truth rendering a necessity for faith.

Like Stafford, Mary Oliver is also a nature poet who finds a source of peace and understanding in the non-human natural environment.  Oliver embraces a humble interconnected and interdependent relationship with nature and believes that in many ways humans should learn from non-human elements.  Bryson succinctly summarizes the essay “The Pragmatic Mysticism of Mary Oliver,” written by Laird Christensen, a Professor of English Literature and Environmental Studies at Green Mountain College:

Oliver views herself as one of many subjects in a multisubjective world, thus “constructing a subject position based on ecological interdependence,” which Christensen calls “a clearly postmodern project undertaken to correct the destructive illusion of human independence from ecosystems.” (Ecopoetry 9)

Oliver’s unique ecopoetic style doesn’t merely acquiesce to a relationship with nature, she physically embodies non-human nature.

Through the ideals of an ecocentric world community, Oliver sees personal value based on a “collective identity,” as well as “figuring physical mortality as redemptive regeneration.” In this way, Christensen says, “Traditional distinctions between mortality and immortality quickly break down as the material elements of each being are transformed into the elements of other bodies” (Ecopoetry “Pragmatic Mysticism” 137).   So, through a lens of personal identification, Oliver sees herself in the natural elements around her, at times embodying them and speaking through them. Vicki Graham, author of “’Into the Body of Another’: Mary Oliver and the Poetics of Becoming Other,” says, “For Oliver, immersion in nature is not death: language is not destroyed and the writer is not silenced. To merge with the non-human is to acknowledge the self’s mutability and multiplicity, not to lose subjectivity.” In fact, not only is this notion of immersion into nature not something that is silencing, she often times finds a strong voice residing in a wave of the ocean, wild geese, or even a maple tree.

Beyond her questioning and humble concession to not-knowing, Oliver enters the ecopoetic conversation with, as Christensen says, a “dynamic dance of energy” (136).  This ecstatic embrace of ecocentric vision found in Oliver’s poetry is witnessed in her 1982 poem, “The Honey Tree;” wherein, instead of observing a bear and reflecting on how that bear must feel, Oliver has embodied the bear relaying the emotions of the climb and the feast as her own experience (American Primitive).  This poem embodies Oliver’s joy in climbing a honey tree as a bear would and represents the ecopoet’s humble relationship with the non-human world, thus as Gram said, her “mutability and multiplicity.”  She feasts off of nature’s harvest indicating both a dependence upon nature and the authority to consume nature. In the tree, Oliver proclaims a self-love and a love of the world found while enjoying an activity deeply desired: she is willing to take the action to fulfill her appetite, an appetite that surmounts to a sense of enlightenment symbolized by her consumption of honey, or what she calls “chunks of pure light” (3).  And to Oliver, this feeling of enlightenment –joy, self-love, a place of light, and “singing in the heaven of appetite”—is clearly found by climbing a honey tree (29).

“The Honey Tree” begins:

And so at last I climbed

the honey tree, ate

chunks of pure light, ate

the bodies of bees that could not

get out of my way, ate

the dark hair of the leaves,

the rippling bark,

the heartwood. (1-8)

Oliver begins this poem with: “And so at last I climbed” (l. 1)!  Just like Stafford, leaving the ground for Oliver’s ascent indicates a rising above the gravity of human constraint and separateness from nature. Gram says, “We dream, we long, and some of us believe that we can step outside of ourselves and enter the body of another.” However, she contends, “Western culture discourages these yearnings and demands individualism and the formation of strong ego boundaries and stable identities.” Her proclamation “And so at last” would indicate a long wait is over, and with that, a sense of liberation or ecstatic defiance.  Oliver overtly pronounces that on her active climb up “the honey tree,” she feasts on bees, leaves, the rippling bark, heartwood, and “chunks of pure light” (3-8).  This imagery indicates Oliver’s enthusiasm for being a part of nature. The activity of climbing the tree represents a freedom, a celebration, even a sense of empowerment as she belongs in this environment –she is a fundamental aspect of it.

This belonging is paramount to the essence of Oliver as an ecopoet, as she does not see a personal identity outside of her involvement in nature.  Oliver is experiencing this tree as if it were a sensual experience with a human: bodies, hair, rippling like muscles, and a heart.  Oliver is involved with nature as if she is having a sexual experience in which she is taking pleasure.  Oliver boldly climbs this honey tree, breeching the enclosed borders imposed by humanity that Gram mentioned, and then she enjoys a frenzy of a feast, saying, “joy does that” (9)!   It is joy that has inspired her into this climb and then joy infuses her upon engaging in the climb.

In the tree, Oliver says she reaches “the nuzzling place,” where light has been “salvaged by the thighs/of bees and racked up/in the body of the tree” (17-20).  This all-encompassing image Oliver has created, brings awareness to the bear’s point of view. This is the bear’s “nuzzling place,” and her enjoyment in pushing her nose through the leaves, and the bees, and eating the honey is due to the very intimate work Oliver has attributed to the bees.  The light is salvaged to create honey, as Oliver says, by “the thighs of bees,” a human body part.  Again, Oliver does this when she places the stored honey in “the body” of the tree.  Oliver is using language that deliberately causes a blending of identities –just as Stafford did when he merged elements of non-animal nature with elements of an animal in “Spirit of Place: Great Blue Heron.”

Oliver says she will climb her tree “by day or night/in the wind, in the leaves” (24-25). Oliver will climb her tree “kneeling/at the secret rip” that tears open her restraints, breeching the boarders of human confinement, breeching the abyss that separates the body from imagination, allowing “the cords/of [her] body” to stretch and sing “in the heaven of appetite” (25-29).  Christensen says:

Oliver reminds us of our power to half-create the lives we experience. We can choose to dwell in paradise if we are willing to reconstruct the way we see ourselves and our world, for as we have seen in “The Swan,” heaven is always accessible through “the imagination/with which you perceive this world,/and the gestures/with which you honor it.” (148)

Up in the tree, Oliver says, “oh, anyone can see/how I love myself at last!/how I love the world!” (21-23).  Oliver presents a dualistic yet synonymous relationship between humbled self-love and a love of the world; and, through Oliver’s ecological lens, the living and non-living elements that make up the world she lives in are interconnected and interdependent.  John Elder, author of Imagining the Earth, says that Oliver’s poems “manifest a dual impulse, at once to acknowledge the intricate, dynamic realities of nonhuman life and to convey the intense meaning of those realities for one who regards them long and clearly” (218).  Regarding the natural world around her, Oliver discovers a new world that comes to her readers through the embodiment and therefore perspective of another.

While Oliver overtly and joyously proclaims her personal and emotional experience with nature, in his prose poem from his 1992 book Sometimes I Breathe: “Something That Happens Right Now,” Stafford begins and ends his poem as if he is sharing a secret (The Way It Is 8). Stafford’s voice and tone seem to be whispering a tale of an intimate and personal experience he has had. The speaker is describing a scene whereby he is sneaking outside at night while everyone else is asleep; he says, “I haven’t told this before” (l. 1). Through a tale engulfed in silence and quiet, the reader witnesses Stafford wrestle with the relationship between nature and time.

Stafford obscures the reader’s sense of time as he switches back and forth between verb tenses. The title, written in the present tense, foretells of something that is currently happening, while the first line indicates to the reader that they are currently going to be told about something that has already happened: “I haven’t told this before” (1).  Immediately following he says: “By our house on the plains before I was born my father planted a maple. At night after bedtime when others were asleep I would go out and stand beside it” (1-3).  Stafford brings the reader to a time before his birth and then immediately he reflects on his own activity in the same location indicating a significant passage of time. The speaker in Stafford’s poem is taking in the world from the vantage point of this particular maple, most likely made significant by his father’s life-giving planting of the tree and involvement in the speaker’s own creation. This father may be the speaker’s actual father or it may be a representation of the father of mankind, a spiritual father.  Either way, he deliberately connects himself to a relationship with the planter of this tree, which is currently providing him with an opportunity to wait and see what is to come next.

He says, “All of us ached with a silence, needing the next thing, but quiet” (5-6).  Saying “All of us” connects this speaker with the non-human nature around him, which includes the maple tree, “air from the fields,” and the stars (4). Stafford is pulling the reader into a moment that for the speaker whispers of an important experience he is having with nature and non-living elements found in nature.  Over one hundred and fifty years earlier, Emerson foreshadowed this ecopoetic relationship with nature in his essay “Nature,” wherein he says: “In the woods, we return to reason and faith. Standing on the bare ground, –my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, –all mean egotism vanishes” (1075).  Stafford places the speaker standing and touching a maple tree and reflecting on the essence of the world around him through the dichotomous imagery of man and nature.

Then Stafford says, “We leaned into midnight and then leaned back. On the rise to the west the radio tower blinked –so many messages pouring by” (6). Stafford has empowered himself as well as the natural elements around him with the ability to move in and out of time; but in doing so, he also plays with the idea of moving into the future and then realizing that he doesn’t want time to move forward, so he pulls back.  The fear that ecopoets have of hyperrational ideals leading to a technological take-over, pushing ecological preserves further and further back on humanity’s priority list, is a fear shared by Stafford and reflected in his language.  At that moment, he sees the steady blinking of the radio tower and is washed by a “great surge” that “came rushing from everywhere and wrapped all the land and sky”(8-9).

Concerned with the future the speaker then asks: “Where were we going? How soon would our house break loose and become a little speck lost in the vast night? My father and mother would die. The maple tree would stand right there. …we would watch it all” (9-11). He knows the interconnectedness of nature and what we perceive as time is more powerful than his family home, his memories, and his parent’s lives.  He foreshadows his parents’ inevitable death but the maple tree survives. This is significant as the maple tree becomes his anchor-point when he becomes scared by technological progress.

His speaker’s feet break “loose from Earth” by the “power of longing” while standing beside the maple tree (13).  Allowing his feet to break loose requires a humble faith in his relationship with nature. The speaker’s feet are no longer bound by the laws of gravity.  His longing for “the next thing” (l.5), his patience, his silence, his observing, and his own natural instinct to humbly submit to the forces of nature and the passage of time, allows him to understand that, like the great surge of messages pouring by from the radio tower and wrapping the land and sky, he too can be everywhere through the messages in his poetry.

The speaker says, “I wouldn’t let the others know about this, but I would be everywhere, as I am right now, a thin tone like the wind, a sip of blue light –no source, no end, no horizon” (13-16).  Stafford is representing the speaker as one who has become part of the essence of the vapor of life that blankets the earth in silence, an element without a beginning, without an ending, a transcendent limitless and constant “thin tone like the wind” –like the messages wrought within poetry.  The speaker’s interconnected relationship with nature breaches the boundaries of man’s ego-centric and object obsessed existence and exposes a new way of knowing the world.

The paradoxical goal of an ecological viewpoint, according to J. Scott Bryson, author of The West Side of Any Mountain: Place, Space, and Ecopoetry, is to “know the world and to recognize its ultimate unknowability” (8). This is precisely the subject Oliver’s speaker in “Bone” contemplates.  Unlike Stafford’s poem, “Something That Happens Right Now” wherein he covertly posits a new way of knowing that puts suspicion to the human tendency for rational thinking, “Bone” overtly posits Oliver’s questions regarding what is knowable.   The poem begins with the speaker declaring her attempts to understand “what the soul is” (ll. 2). Through the process of looking and contemplating possibilities she concludes that it is not our job to know; rather we are supposed to be active participants who notice the world around us and appreciate it. Though Oliver’s over-lying message of the poem is telling her readers to forfeit their need to know, she starts the poem by telling her readers to “understand” her persistent inquisition regarding the soul. This suggests that for Oliver “understanding” is not the same thing as “knowing,” which explains in Oliver’s eyes what Bryson meant when he said we need to know the world and know that it is unknowable.

Upon finding an ear bone on the beach from a pilot whale that she believes to have died “hundreds of years ago,” Oliver considers that perhaps she is getting closer to figuring out “what the soul is,/and where hidden,/and what shape—” (2-4, 9).  She is drawing this conclusion based on the fact that she says, “the ear bone/is the portion that lasts longest/in any of us, man or whale” (12-14).  Paradoxically, she says:

it was only

two inches long—

and I thought: the soul

might be like this—

so hard, so necessary—

yet almost nothing. (20-25)

The paradox lies in the polar aspects Oliver is attributing to the soul:

longest lasting only “two inches long”
soft tissue that comprises the “house of hearing” “so hard”
“so necessary” “yet almost nothing”

This paradox is an aspect of our human nature as well as non-human nature; it contains the dualities required in life, such as light and darkness, life and death.  She is discussing a theme she turns to the world around her to understand.  As she contemplates the polar aspects she believes the soul to endow, she sits by the sea noticing its movements:

Beside me

the gray sea

was opening and shutting its wave-doors,

unfolding over and over

its time-ridiculing roar (26-30)

Now Oliver brings in another familiar theme that Stafford negotiated in “Something That Happens Right Now:” the juxtaposition of nature and time.  For Oliver, in her moment of query, the sea is ridiculing her mortality while flexing its powerful waves by “opening and shutting its wave-doors […] over and over” again (28-29).  The sea presents a constant concrete life and movement, a force that drives its existence into her knowing, a knowing that the soul cannot produce for her.

Yet, Oliver notices that though she cannot see through the wave’s “dark-knit glare,” she knows that there is golden sand on the bottom of the sea floor –regardless that “our eyes have never seen it,/nor can our hands ever catch it” (ll. 32, 35-36).  Herein, Oliver is changing her position as she and the reader progress through this journey of discovery toward knowing.  If we presume to know that sand exists without being able to see or control it, perhaps the same could be said about the soul.  Because she, attributes rational thinking to the human mind (or hyperrational thinking as Bryson claims), she goes on to imagine the absurdities we would do should we catch the sand, like turn it into “fractions, and facts/certainties/and what the soul is” (38-40)!

Oliver is jumbling the reader’s assumptions regarding what is knowable.  She separates herself from her “we” statements and proclaims, “and what the soul is, also/I believe I will never quite know” (40-41).  She continues, “Though I play at the edges of knowing,/truly I know/our part is not knowing;” rather, she says, our part is “but looking, and touching, and loving” (42-45). The “edges of knowing” that she plays at are the edges of the sea; she gives the source of knowledge as the sea, which only opens its wave-doors in time to shut them again, leaving us with only bits of knowledge. It is a role-reversal to assign knowledge to a natural element, and assign sensory perception and appreciation to humanity. Regardless of Oliver’s calm and colloquial language, she posits radical notions of, humbly accepting one’s place and duty in the world and being content within this acceptance –and also not knowing.

Through the lens of nature, both Stafford and Oliver present a vision of humanity’s relationship to ecology through a humble appreciation and a strong personal believe that they are an interdependent element of the natural world. When Stafford refers to the blinking light of the radio tower and “so many messages pouring by,” he was referring to, as Bryson says, “an intense skepticism concerning hyperrationality” based on the modern push for technological advancement (7). However, Stafford and Oliver made it their poetic focus to make sure that so many of the messages that go “pouring by” are message rooted in the fundamental elements of ecopoetry, which can be summed up by Oliver in her poem “Bone:”

Though I play at the edges of knowing,

truly I know

our part is not knowing,

but looking, and touching, and loving .

which is the way I walked on,

softly (42-46)

… and it’s the way Stafford walked on as well.

Philosopher David Abram believed the only way to tap into a “genuinely ecological approach” to understanding was to “strive to enter, ever more deeply, into the sensorial present” (AWE “Between the Body and the Breathing Earth”). By becoming aware of our sensory impressions, we awaken to the world that surrounds us. Human-centered-knowing is cracked open by the most simple or mundane sensorial event, wherein an “organism [receives] an echo of itself from the world, an interaction with the world from which one returns to oneself changed, refracted somewhat, and through which the world is also reflected, returned to itself afresh” (Abram).  A fresh look at the organisms of nature reaps a new kind of knowing, one of acceptance and appreciation.  Ecopoets write in a language that transcends the linear and rational human knowledge of truth. They do this through their ability to see a deep meaning that lies silently in the human and non-human, living and non-living world.

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