Ecopoetry is a word used to mean many things in the poetry cannon, however the main point of many of these arguments is that ecopoets examine how humans fit into the world around them and contribute to the larger ecosystem of the entire world. These five poets try to put themselves in perspective of the entire world and do so with harrowing consequences.
Some poetry is pretty on the page and some follows you home to bed and wedges itself between you and the mattress, keeping you from getting comfortable or drifting off to sleep. If you’re looking to lose sleep over other people’s words, these poets are writing for you.
1. Patricia Smith
Patricia Smith writes poetry that foregoes space and time and plants its reader right down in the thick of things. The dread in her speaker’s voice is real and tangible. It’s your dread. Much of her ecopoetry focuses on Hurricane Katrina and the effects it had on human life and the environment they inhabited and fell with. Read her if you want to feel damned.
Recommended reading: “Looking for Bodies”
2. Robert Hass
Robert Hass asks too many questions and most of them don’t have easy answers. The way he writes and interweaves environmental cause with human cost is masterfully done. Read him if you’d like to face how you and your complacency contribute to others’ hardships.
Recommended reading: “Ezra Pound’s Proposition”
3. Jorie Graham
Unsettling is often a word used to describe Graham’s work. She is well-known for creating a dialogue between reader and the poem, using language to entrap her reader in questions far bigger than themselves. She employs really wonderful movement on the page to keep you rolling through it. Read her if you want to feel like you’ve been swallowing rocks.
Recommended reading: “Dialogue (Of the Imagination’s Fear)”
4. Ed Roberson
Ed Roberson is perhaps softer than the previous poets, but no less harrowing. His work in ecopoetics often explore the positioning of the self in relation to the rest of the world. These poems often leave his readers asking where they sit within the lines and if they are in the right place at all. Read him if you want to feel something between guilt and discomfort.
Recommended reading: “To See the Earth before the End of the World”
5. Joy Harjo
UCONN’s 55th Wallace Stevens Poet also falls into a category of ecopoetry. Powerful images and repetition make her poetry resonate long after the book is closed. Read her if you want to be confused or affected or confused about being so affected.
Recommended reading: “She Had Some Horses”