Wednesday, 17 of January of 2018

Tag » Earth

How Does A Warrior Poem Differ From A Nature Poem?

by Dennis Fritzinger

Someone said the poet’s role in an age of ecological catastrophe is to grieve. Just the knowledge of the changes the planet is going through produces pain and suffering in the poet and that’s how grieving or pain and suffering makes it into the poem, often in subtle, but sometimes not-so-subtle ways.

GreenManAnother thing that might happen is the poet puts on a mask and becomes a part of earth that is being diminished or even destroyed. The poet can give that “Other” a voice, much like in the Council of All Beings. The poet’s metamorphosis can produce a poem that couldn’t happen in the poet’s normal voice. It’s the difference between poetry and polemic.

In fact I often say that it’s a poet’s responsibility — the warrior poet’s job — to give a voice to the voiceless. Speak up! for nature, by letting nature speak up for itself.

Then there’s the grief part. What we feel in our personal lives, and that requires knowledge, can produce feelings of grief, even strong feelings of grief. These then can appear in the poems we write, either as a walk-on part or center stage. An entire poem may be a ritual of grieving. But, as I said, knowledge is necessary — you have to follow what’s going on (I read a lot) or be able to see it with your own eyes and think about it with your own brain.

So it’s important to process the information that comes to you. So important. Yet hard to do, there’s so much of it. And making sense of it–the processing–isn’t always easy. Being poets, we are language workers. Each of us has developed, or in process of developing, our own unique voice or way of saying things, which is all tangled up with our way of seeing things of course. And then there’s what we see and think about.

A lot of this flows out of our daily life. If we are lucky enough to have pursued a path in science, we’re half-way there already. But it doesn’t have to be science, it could be farming, or working as a forest ranger, or having any number of passions that involve the outdoors–surfing and rock-climbing, to name a few. Get the body involved, and the head will follow. Then the words will come.

Surfing
BearingWitness

That still leaves the question of where the line is between a nature poem and a warrior poem, since they both deal with nature. On one side of the divide there’s just nature in all its fecundity and beauty, nature as it would be if it was left alone by us. On the other side, there’s the human presence–everything we’ve done to alter the earth. That’s the raw material.

And we, as human beings, as poets, find it necessary at times to protest our own specie’s behavior. That’s when we express our grief, our anger, our outrage in our poetry. Or celebrate it, if for instance we have just joined together to take out a dam or cut a fishing net off a trapped whale.

At the very least we need to bear witness, like the Quakers. Warrior poetry is also a poetry of bearing witness.


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Walkin’ Jim – Evangelist for Wilderness

 

Early days of Armed with Visions website was everpresent with Walkin’ Jim

Walkin_Jim2

Poems of a poet who has walked as far as John Muir:
Rock Dream, Bull River Woods, Bat Cave, and Joshua Tree.

walkin_jim_coloby Dennis Fritzinger

I first met Walkin’ Jim Stoltz at an Earth First! Rendezvous. A very tall, lean, lanky man with incredible musical talent, I had never heard of him before. Then, Earth First! was a magnet with a vision that drew incredible musical and other talents to it.

Walkin’ Jim was exceptional in many ways. An accomplished guitarist and songwriter with a twinkle in his eye, he had a singing voice that was like no other’s — deep, raspy, colorful, it was quite unlike his speaking voice. It reminded me of the canyons he sang about; there was a quality of wildness in it, a quality of the wilderness itself.

Jim would go on these many mile hikes and hike for hundreds, maybe thousands, of miles across the U.S. — through canyons, over mountains, across prairies — following rivers, daring mountain passes, surviving heat and snow and encounters with large animals, and he took it all in — he took every bit of it in. Jim was a minstrel for wilderness, an evangelist, and his songs, filled with stories and sounds, reflect that, and continue to inspire us to this day.

“In his lifetime, he accomplished numerous long-distance treks including the complete lengths of the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, an east-to-west cross-continent hike, the entire U.S. Continental Divide, trips from Yellowstone to the Yukon, and many others. In total, he hiked more than 28,000 miles of long-distance trips.” –Legacy.com

Jim hiked more in a year than I have in my lifetime, and went more places than I ever dreamed of. As he was hiking a trail somewhere, a song would come to him and he’d sit down under a tree or on a rock and write it down. Or maybe he’d be sitting in the tent he put up at the end of a long day, and amid the preparation for dinner and sleep, he’d pick up his guitar and Jim_in_treestrum a few chords and suddenly a new song would start to materialize in his head and in the air around him. The trees, birds, and little animals that live in rocks got quite a few free concerts from Jim!

Of course Walkin’ Jim wasn’t always out there somewhere walking. Like a latter-day John Muir he would return to home base now and then. John Muir we associate with Yosemite, but home base for Muir was in the Bay Area. It was there he wrote his books and articles that became so influential. Jim’s base was with his family in Montana. That’s where he returned to rest up, to organize his latest songs and poems and share them first with friends and relatives, and to replenish. It was also where the schedule for his many singing tours began, complete with slide show and many slides. Thanks to the magic of photography, he could show his audience he wasn’t just making it up.

An evangelist has to evangelize, and to do that you have to entertain. Even more than a John Muir, Jim was a latter-day kokopelli traveling America’s heartland, though with a guitar instead of a flute. I make this comparison because kokopelli always has a backpack, though it’s hard to tell from the drawings if he was as tall.

Jim was able to entertain because he was a superb storyteller. Humorous, he had the sort of voice that could keep you rapt in attention, just as you would be if you were hearing it at a campfire. Jim had the ability to turn a large concert hall into an intimate space, much like a campfire. The slides and the songs would transport you, and he’d always throw in an appeal to write a letter in support of some place or critter somewhere that needed help. That’s the evangelist side of the entertainer.

When we lost Jim we lost a powerful presence, a powerful voice for the wilderness, and I lost a good friend.

The Kid for the Wild Scholarship is a tribute to the memory and vision of Walkin’ Jim Stoltz and his “kid for the wild” spirit.
Walkin_Jim