Thursday, 23 of February of 2017

Another Repost: How does poetry relate to Earth First!?

by Dennis Fritzinger


How has it related?


In Susan Zakin’s Coyotes and Town Dogs, the only biography of Earth First! so far, Susan mentions Dave Foreman’s discovery of a poem about a ball of masonry that  summed up Dave’s world view.

This poem by Stephen Crane is why Dave wrote, “Where would the anti-war movement have been without its poetry and songs?”

So there was a deliberate attempt on Dave’s part to tie Earth First!’s fortunes to music and poetry. Wisely so. A movement without the arts never becomes a movement.

Poets and musicians get inspiration from everyday events, as well as other poets and musicians. They’re practiced in communicating ideas in a language that is both memorable and rememberable. Poets influence musicians, who in turn influence poets. This naturally works better when you have a critical mass of musicians and poets. And the poets and musicians inspire everyone else.

So Earth First! is, essentially, a movement led by artists. Even Dave Foreman, when he was around, was an artist–he excelled at oratory, which is basically speech and poetry rolled up together.

And as the artists leave, the movement loses steam and becomes directionless. Or new artists sign on, and change the direction of the movement.

You can see this happening if you compare “The Li’l Green Songbook” with “The Earth First! Songbook” and the later “Hootenanny”. There is a definite change–both of focus and of style. The threads that were everywhere in “Li’l Green” are scarcely present in “Hootenanny”, which has a much wider and softer focus–Women’s Issues, Prisoner Issues & Animal Lib. & Gender Issues outnumber more traditional EF! issues like habitat, wilderness, and wild.

In the midst of this, the warrior poets society has remained firmly on course. Poetry submissions do occasionally come with gender and prisoner issues (or animal rights) as their subject, but since the poetry page has an editor (unlike a stage, demonstration, or, alas, the Journal) it is easy to refuse to run them.

My attitude is, when all the endangered species, habitat, ecosystems, wilderness & the wild have been saved, then we’ll have room for other issues. Earth First!