Why A Warrior Poets Society?
In Marge Piercy’s utopia in Woman On The Edge of Time, she posits small communities where, when decisions are made, there’s a member who puts on a mask —Oak mask, Trout mask, Owl mask— and speaks for the speechless. Gary Snyder suggests that’s what poets do, that’s one of poetry’s functions.
Poets, by being able to speak for nature, have a guiding mission within the environmental movement. But too often as poets we have been undercut by long-winded explainers who say they have the most credible information. But what of having someone around to actually help us understand how studying ecology leads to studying poetry?
Well, I say it’s time for poets to stand up! & get organized—reclaim their rightful place in the earth by putting the Earth First! (or any other) community as bards, seers, and interpreters of the wild.
Poets have earned the right to be called activists. Moreover, poetry is a right brain activity that circumvents blockades put up by the left, “rational” brain, the household of what Bly calls “The Old Position”.
Prior to Descartes, according to Bly, Western literature reflected a people whose sensibility was not divided, a people who did not separate themselves from nature or from those elements in their own individual natures that they could not explain rationally, such as intuition, superstition, and spirituality. He cited the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf as an example, showing that when the poet describes the monster Grendel, he does so without having to explain its existence and without doubting that his audience will believe in such a creature; the Beowulf poet had complete “faith in nighttime events.” This proximity to the darker side of the human psyche, this lack of separation from nature, was destroyed, said Bly, when Descartes declared in 1619, “I think, therefore I am.”
After Descartes, Western literature would forever divide the autonomous self from nature. As Bly described it in his preface to News of the Universe: What I’ve called the Old Position puts human reason, and so human beings, in the superior position. . . . Consciousness is human, and involves reason. A serious gap exists between us and the rest of nature. Nature is to be watched, pitied, and taken care of if it behaves. In such language the body is exiled, the soul evaporated, the mind given executive power. Bly’s Reference to “The Old Position”
If you want to gauge the importance of poets to the environmental movement as a whole, check out Tongues in Trees (Kim Taplin), Imagining the Earth (John Elder), News of the Universe (Robert Bly), and the intro to The Forgotten Language (Christopher Merrill).
I think poetry can make a contribution to the Earth First! “narrative”—perhaps an even bigger contribution than the poets themselves realize. Or as John Seed, says:
“What we find in one of the processes in the Council of All Beings is a deep mourning, where we start to grieve the loss of things that are being lost from the Earth, our favorite little piece of nature that’s now covered by a freeway or whatever it is, and people begin to weep and howl and wail about what’s being lost.
We’re so afraid that we’re going to be crushed by these feelings, we’ve been led to believe that we’ll be crushed by them, but certainly in this context of a supportive group of people who are encouraging each other to do things, the opposite is always the case. “
Date: May 12, 2015
Categories: Inspiring Voices