Janice Lee & Andrea Quaid
In one sense, the work featured in Plant Poetics and Beyond comes from the June 2019 Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) Conference at UC Davis, where all the writers collected here presented their work.
There were plants, trees, herbs, grasses and mosses. There were lichen and fungi – pressuring our own plant poetics into a beyond that refused to be contained. What is a poem? What is a biota? What is worlding that brings the two together and attends to resonances, connections, intimacies? What are attentions that notice anew how they are already together in literature and in daily life?
Sites of inquiry included vegetal feminist experimental creation (Organizers Caitlin McIntyre and Kellie Sharpe) and the neglected lives of micro-matter (Organizers Agnes Malinowska and Joela Jacobs). There were discussions of aesthetics, literature, and the work a microbial does in a paragraph and in a body and in an ecosystem. People presented creative and critical writing about indigeneous plant medicine and spiritual practices. Others explored plant poetics and healing modalities (Organizer Megan Kamisnki) and what an ecopoetics of contact (Organizer Mandy Bloomfield) may reveal about plant communication and cognition.
In another sense, the writing collected here emerges from multiple locations and ongoing engagements. It comes from conversations taking place as other conference panels at different events, as poetry readings, as small, mobile reading groups, as writing collaborations, as discussions, as chats, as communications with ancient beings, as silence when walking together, as collective telepathic communiques with plant neighbors. We share book lists. We share poems. We share a political urgency to think our relationality – human to human, human to nonhuman others – in more life-affirming ways.
Plant Poetics and Beyond features meditations, essays, notes and poems. All of the pieces will be linked/published tomorrow!
- Amanda Ackerman: Plant Meditation: How to Communicate With Plants
- Brenda Iijima: Referential Cues and Correspondences, ASLE 2019
- Megan Kaminski: Being With Plants
- Sonnet L’Abbé: Phytoconscious Love
- Janice Lee: Co-Dependencies & Becoming: The Languages of Personhood
- Gillian Osborne: Lichen Writing
- Andrea Quaid: Amanda Ackerman’s The Book of Feral Flora, a feminist poetics of plant-human relations
For reference, we include the titles and descriptions of the panels that many of these pieces participated in or responded to:
Vegetal feminist experimental creation / Andrea Quaid
Panel Organizers: Caitlin McIntyre and Kellie Sharpe [This panel will explore the vegetal feminist avant garde through these questions or concerns: different modes of nonhuman animacy/agency; vegetation as form; plant symbolism; botany, biochemistry and taxonomy; plant-based folk-knowledge, medicine, and spirituality; depictions of agricultural space and/or labor; biosemiotics and plant communication; the aesthetic and sensorial worlds of plants.]
The Neglected Lives of Micro-Matter / Gillian Obsorne
Panel organizers: Agnes Malinowska and Joela Jacobs [Microorganisms like fungi, bacteria, and algae point us to an image of life outside of individuality, life as essentially relational and generative, multiplying: What might a revitalized politics or justice look like when we take on the perspective and the dimensions of these tiny organisms? How does life on the micro-scale compel us to suspend the usual human order, to reconsider our cultural exchanges, or to reorder our (bio)political and ethical systems? At the same time, we seek to uncover in our literary and cultural histories a microbial aesthetics that reckons with the implications of being alive in a wildly diverse network of multispecies relations—relations that operate on multiple scales, diverging temporalities, and according to patterns that cannot be reduced to either harmony or conflict]
Plant Poetics: Healing Modalities / Amanda Ackerman, Megan Kaminski, Sonnet L’Abbé, Janice Lee
Panel organizers: Megan Kaminski [New research into plant cognition and plant communication has expanded our concepts of sentience, connectedness, and compassion. We might think of fungal networks connecting trees to share information across the forest, the epigenetic inheritance of traits through subsequent generations of plants, and “kin recognition” amongst a variety of species. What neglected knowledge can plants share when we encounter them as subjects rather than as setting? Drawing from a wide range of engagements, including historical, theoretical, and encounter, this roundtable of writers will explore plant life directly and as a model for a poetics based in rootedness. How might thinking with plants allow us a different lens through which to see our present world and histories–and help to imagine futures based in reciprocal altruism? / We’ll consider invasive species and colonial histories, traditional and contemporary roles of plants in healing and spiritual practices, the re-wilding of post-industrial spaces, and how models of plants thinking might offer an ethics that, as philosopher Michael Marder writes in his Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life, “sheds its humanist camouflage” and allows “the human subject will join plant life in a self-expropriating journey towards the other.”]
An Ecopoetics of Contact / Brenda Iijima
Panel organizers: Mandy Bloomfield [In elegguas, Caribbean poet, activist and scholar Kamau Brathwaite offers “a whole Cloud of Witnesses!” as a compelling metaphor for collective being and ethical attentiveness in a time of ecological and social challenge. How do speech acts and other encoded symbols of somatic expression join forces in forging a method of collective noticing and corroboration? How can human language consort with echoic, flaring, lapidary nonhuman testimony to propose, model, and express less detrimental ways of living on planet Earth? / Within catastrophe, subject-positions are turbulent, changeable and fractured. From among fragments and ruins, a more manifold notion of subjectivity becomes possible through contact with others. This might include those often excluded from recognition: plants, mountains, rivers, microbes and even apparently extinct creatures, cultures and modes of life. New forms of collectivity may arise through the disruption of dominant social hierarchies that are based on predatory capitalist patriarchy, founded on racism and colonial settler theft, and maintained by a punitive military-industrial-medical complex. Eruptions of polyvocal dissent are everywhere. This roundtable investigates collective listening and enunciation as a basis for community. People corroborate and testify, but so does the more-than-human world. How might poetry make contact with such articulations?]
We invite you to send your own work on plant poetics to Entropy. Our aim is to build from this beginning into an expanded, alive archive of the plant poetics (and beyond!) work being done now. Please submit your work for inclusion into the series Plant Poetics and Beyond to firstname.lastname@example.org.