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What poems have you chosen to work with?

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this needs to be roughly 5 – 8 pages long, double-spaced and cited. You need to quote at least once from each source, and you need to cite that source according to MLA conventions. Make sure that your main point is clear in the introduction, and make sure to identify the poems and poets, and Dungy, in the introduction too. And make sure you’re clear about why this idea is important? Why does it matter? For me, it matters that being *in* the place where we experience nature is where the poem needs to come from, because the place is what we need to preserve.
“If you can construct a narrative that turns a human into a beast in order to justify the degradation of that human, how much easier must it be to dismiss the needs of a black bear, a crayfish, a banyan? The values we place on lives that are not our own are reflected in the stories we tell ourselves—and in which aspects of these stories resonate with us” (Dungy)
“Our contemporary understanding of ecopoetics takes into account the ways human-centered thinking reflects on, and is reflected in, what we write. And, contemporary ecopoetics questions the efficacy of valuing one physical presentation of animated matter over another, because narratives about place and about life contribute to our orientation in, and our interpretation of, that place and that life” (Dungy)
One purpose of academic researched writing is to participate in a conversation based in an ongoing conversation about topics that affect human life. Think of it this way, writers (and all kinds of artists) have made observations and arguments, and asked questions, about the value of nature. What is nature, and what is “natural” as opposed to made or constructed? What is our relationship with nature, and how does that shape how we think about it? (And act about it.) How does human life reflect nature? And when doesn’t it? These conversations are shaped by the time period in which they were written and in which they are read, and the people who wrote them and those who read them. Those people are shaped by all kinds of other things: place, beliefs, nationality, race, gender, etc.
At this time, we are culturally engaged in conversations about the importance of nature and how, or whether, to preserve it. This feels like an urgent collection of questions, given the changes in climate and landscape, and in variety of living creatures.
With this in mind, I would like you to work with one of the ideas in Dungy’s essay: ecopoetics, ecotone (you can think of this as a literal place where the poem is situated, or a metaphorical place from which the poem works), how the valuing of creature life might reflect valuing human life, the pleasures and dangers of the natural world, etc. Here are an assortment of quotes from which you can choose to write:
“I feel an affinity for what ecologists call ecotones, areas at the margins between one zone and another—like the tidal zone where beach and ocean overlap, or the treed and grassy band where forest becomes meadow—spaces that are often robustly productive and alive. These are overlaps rich with possibility and also, often, danger” (Dungy)
“If you can construct a narrative that turns a human into a beast in order to justify the degradation of that human, how much easier must it be to dismiss the needs of a black bear, a crayfish, a banyan? The values we place on lives that are not our own are reflected in the stories we tell ourselves—and in which aspects of these stories resonate with us” (Dungy)
“Our contemporary understanding of ecopoetics takes into account the ways human-centered thinking reflects on, and is reflected in, what we write. And, contemporary ecopoetics questions the efficacy of valuing one physical presentation of animated matter over another, because narratives about place and about life contribute to our orientation in, and our interpretation of, that place and that life” (Dungy)
Is all writing environmental writing?
For this paper, you need to use one of these ideas to talk about at least two poems (they can be by the same or by different poets. One can be a poem we’ve already discussed, but the second should be something we haven’t worked with. There’s a collection of nature poems in the folder for research and writing on Blackboard; you can also work with one you find on your own—if you do this, just run it by me quickly.
Let me give an example: Our experiences of nature are so often mediated by something else, often technology. We look at the landscape through cameras and on film or in tv, we read about potential or actual natural disasters in places we’ve never been; we recall images of nature associated with our own feelings, rather than as experiences of their own. When Dungy writes, “…narratives about place and about life contribute to our orientation in, and our interpretation of, that place and that life,” she is making connection between how our experiences are clear in how we write about them. In Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” the primary experience is one of remembering a beautiful place, which doesn’t depend on the place continuing to exist, while in Ari Banias’ “A Sunset,” the experience of nature is repeated in human expression. In Wordsworth’s ecopoetics, nature doesn’t need to exist, but the same could be said for Banias’ poem. Both value human experience based in a thing or similar to a thing in nature.
So I’d use the quote from Dungy, the Wordsworth poem we discussed and a poem by Ari Banias that’s on Blackboard, to write an essay proposing that, in order to value nature enough to make real efforts to preserve it, we need poetry that stays with nature rather filtering it through someother technology, even f that technology is memory or human experission.
Yours could be simpler. Is all writing environmental writing? Use two poems to show how it is or isn’t, or how it both is and isn’t.
Or you could write about ecotones, arguing that places of transition can be understood metaphorically: they could be about class or economics, they could be about emotional life or stages of life. Use two poems to explain that.
Or you could talk about metaphorical urban ecotones, places between park and street, for example, or backyard and house.
We’ll work through this in three steps:
1. Discussion board: post two possible paper topics. They can be brief, and you can use this to ask your peers for ideas if you have one that isn’t clear to you yet. (I like the poem by Jericho Brown, what do I want to write about it? Know another poem that fits with it?)
2. Response paper: Write to me about your idea. What argument do you want to make? What poems have you chosen to work with? Do you have any questions about the poems? The quote from Dungy?
3. Paper: This needs to be roughly 5 – 8 pages long, double-spaced and cited. You need to quote at least once from each source, and you need to cite that source according to MLA conventions. Make sure that your main point is clear in the introduction, and make sure to identify the poems and poets, and Dungy, in the introduction too. And make sure you’re clear about why this idea is important? Why does it matter? For me, it matters that being *in* the place where we experience nature is where the poem needs to come from, because the place is what we need to preserve.

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