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Weston, Daniel Peter (2016)
Publisher: Open Library of Humanities
Journal: C21 Literature: Journal of 21st-century Writings
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: Kathleen Jamie, P, ecology, Jen Hadfield, form, lyric, anthropocentrism, Language and Literature, ecocriticism, Jo Shapcott
Ecology is currently coming under increasing poetic scrutiny in a range of terms (landscape, place, environment). Critical responses to this poetry commonly assume a relationship between form and content, wherein textual ecology – the shape of the poem on the page, the spatial and sonic relationship that its parts bear to one another – mimics or otherwise expresses the ecology that the poem describes. Most often, this has been taken to mean that a freer verse style reflects real-world ecologies better by escaping the artificial, cultural constructs of metered verse, and replacing them with more ‘natural’ free verse rhythms. The role of the lyric ‘I’ has also come under examination in much of this poetry and in accompanying criticism: experimental landscape poetry often dispenses with its explicit presence in the poem (even if its implicit influence is much more difficult to eradicate). However, these lines of thinking might not take advantage of the fullest sense of ‘ecology’. \ud This article argues that the continued presence of inherited (‘traditional’) poetic forms (metres and rhythms) has been overlooked in contemporary poetry addressing this set of concerns. A number of poets are noticing the way in which form can be harnessed – adapted rather than slavishly adhered to – in creating poetic ecologies. In particular, I look at sonnets or sonnet-like forms in recent poems explicitly concerned with nature, place, and environment by Jo Shapcott, Jen Hadfield, and Kathleen Jamie. In light of the environmental concerns that these poets address, the ghost of metre to be found in their work might signal an uneasy relationship between human, ‘cultural’ and non-human, ‘natural’ actors in ecology. I aim to notice a trend in contemporary poetic ecologies and offer redress to the ways in which a return to form might have been overlooked in critical discussions of the topic.
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