Endemophilia

This poem is sort of my version of endemophilia, describing (as Albrecht defines it) “the particular love of the locally and regionally distinctive in the people of that place. It is similar to what Relph … called “existential insideness” or the deep, satisfying feeling of being truly at home with one’s place and culture.” You might want to check out Glenn Albrecht’s site for more detailed definitions and philosophical/psychological reasons for inventing names for such concepts.

My long-poem in Water-Rites, “The Valley, the Whitetail: A History,” probably fits the term endemophilia more closely than the poem I’ve posted below–which may one day appear in print if I can find a publisher for my next manuscript. But the long-poem is a little too long for a blog post.

[I have an idea: buy a copy of Water-Rites from Brick Road Poetry Press, and read it there!]

~

Suburban Georgic

A mild day in February. Good chance
there’ll be more snow or ice. Walk slowly,

note the footprint of a hosta, dormant, or
the arrow-shaped deer hoof in hardened soil.

Look more closely for the ravages and burrows
of rodentia—woodchucks, voles and mice.

You may discover where squirrels have
hidden seeds or laid waste to crocus corms—

try to restrain your wrath. Decide
how best to counter such yearly looting;

strategy keeps the mind sharp. Grubs,
for instance, in your lawn—a different tack,

and this year you may succeed, and keep
the skunks from rooting through the grass.

Weigh, in your mind and pocketbook,
the relative costs of pesticide and herbicide.

It might be the year to go organic,
though there’s even odds the dandelions will thrive.

Ease your troubled breast from lawn woes.
Raise your eyes to forsythia, to witch-hazel,

observe critically the shrubs’ bare bones,
decide what needs the kindest cut,

find your saw and pruners, time to oil
and sharpen—your fingers itch—

but it’s a little soon. To assuage your
yearning, cut back the redtwig osier

so its new growth will flush crimson.
Consider forcing blooms indoors—

aren’t there soft, small swellings on
the slim wands of pussywillow?

When the next storm hits, dream of columbine
and narcissus. Get out your Horace, and wait.

ann e michael

quince blossoms

~

© 2008 Ann E. Michael

~

Waiting, in the place I call home, for spring.

Advertisements

Toponesia and poem

Here is a poem by Virginia Hamilton Adair that demonstrates, perhaps, the idea of “toponesia”–loss of connection with place. The speaker recalls the beloved beach in its decay and in its beauty; she also recognizes that the tide erases all–talk about amnesia!

Buckroe, After the Season, 1942

Past the fourth cloverleaf, by dwindling roads
At last we came into the unleashed wind;
The Chesapeake rose to meet us at a dead end
Beyond the carnival wheels and gingerbread.
Forsaken by summer, the wharf. The oil-green waves
Flung yellow foam and sucked at disheveled sand.
Small fish stank in the sun, and nervous droves
Of cloud hastened their shadows over bay and land.
Beyond the NO DUMPING sign in its surf of cans
And the rotting boat with nettles to the rails,
The horse dung garlanded with jeweling flies
And papers blown like a fleet of shipless sails,
We pushed into an overworld of wind and light
Where sky unfettered ran wild from earth to noon,
And the tethered heart broke loose and rose like a kite
From sands that borrowed diamonds from the sun.
We were empty and pure as shells that air-drenched hour,
Heedless as waves that swell at the shore and fall,
Pliant as sea-grass, the rapt inheritors
Of a land without memory, where tide erases all.

from Ants on the Melon. Copyright © 1996 by Virginia Hamilton Adair

Homescape poems: Solastalgia

Note–The poems below are used only as illustrations and used by virtue of the Creative Commons theory; the copyrights belong to the authors or their executors.

~

I’m thinking about the nostalgic overtones of the “changed” homescape here, or the notion of solastalgia as coined by Glenn Albrecht (see earlier post). At first I planned to use a poem with overt environmental themes (as of the home that has been denuded, altered, destroyed–many good poems exist on that theme). Then I thought to look more obliquely at the idea of solastalgia as an emotional state, for home is deeply freighted with psyche.

One form of “solastalgia” is represented here, I think, in Philip Larkin’s “Home Is So Sad”:

Home Is So Sad

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turns again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.

~

Another aspect of solastalgia, in this section of Gary Snyder’s “Four Poems for Robin,” relates to the homeplace in the form of a relationship, one bound up with the excitement of youth, college, the orchard with its tall dry grasses and love’s “grave, awed intensity.” Yase village is located near Kyoto; the speaker of the poem identifies where (and when: December) he resides while reflecting on an autumn day in his past.

December at Yase

You said, that October,
In the tall dry grass by the orchard
When you chose to be free,
“Again someday, maybe ten years.”

After college I saw you
One time. You were strange.
And I was obsessed with a plan.

Now ten years and more have
Gone by: I’ve always known

where you were–

I might have gone to you
Hoping to win your love back.
You still are single.

I didn’t.
I thought I must make it alone. I
Have done that.

Only in dream, like this dawn,
Does the grave, awed intensity
Of our young love
Return to my mind, to my flesh.

We had what the others
All crave and seek for;
We left it behind at nineteen.

I feel ancient, as though I had
Lived many lives.
And may never now know
If I am a fool
Or have done what my

karma demands.
~
I’d be interested in finding out which poems you consider solastalgic. Meanwhile, I am going to browse my collection for poems that are endomophilic…

AWP follow-up

photo Ann E. Michael

winterhazel

Snow fell on Boston. Not a big snow, however, and rather typical for a late-winter storm: damp, swirling but not biting, swift-melting once the sun appeared two days later. Early Friday morning, I trudged with a friend over the as-yet unshoveled sidewalks to breakfast on Newbury Street at Steve’s. We met with conference buddies who are all members of the WOM-PO [women’s poetry] listserv. It is lovely to meet face-to-face people who have been virtual colleagues and splendid to discuss poetry over a good breakfast.

~

It is also a relief to realize that I have finally learned how to manage conference-going. It is all a matter of pacing and, I suppose, of taking poet William Stafford’s advice and lowering one’s expectations. The hardest challenge is making the choice between blowing the budget on terrific food (in a big city, wonderful restaurants abound) or on books, because the bookfair at the Associated Writing Programs’ annual conference is enough to inspire swooning among literary bibliophiles.

In three huge exhibit rooms, small presses and literary and university presses displayed chapbooks, literary journals, and books that range from minuscule to tabloid-sized, books that are handmade, letter-pressed, offset, print-on-demand, stapled, ribbon-sewn, die-cut, fancy-boxed, reprinted, spare, florid, illustrated, edgy, deckle-edged, marbled, second-hand, one-of-a-kind, limited-edition, mass produced, commercial, educational…in all genres including mixed-genre, collaborative, collage, anthology, with an emphasis more on the literary than the commercial text. These books can be devilishly hard to locate, even with the existence of Amazon and online sellers; and holding them in your hands is a far more convincing sell than seeing a picture file on your computer screen.

Heaven for poetry-readers, there are also wonderful creative non-fiction books, collections of short stories, novels, books on prosody and poetics, the craft of writing, on creativity and inspiration and toil and revision and on the complex and controversial topic of teaching writing. Oh, and there are people, too. Most of the attendees are writers of one stripe or another who are congenial and curious or else walking about with the glazed expression of the overwhelmed.

Or some combination of the two.

~

I exercised considerable restraint and managed not to load my bedside table with two months or more of reading material (see a related post here). And I got some terrific ideas for teaching writing to college students and found some wonderful poets whose work I want to study. The last night of the conference, I listened to the mesmerizing Anne Carson read an indescribable take-down of the fifth book of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, the section titled The Captive (Albertine). It’s been years since I read Proust, which I did almost out of stubbornness in my junior year of college, but the book came back vividly enhanced by Carson’s peculiar approach to pacing, language, scholarship, whimsy and satire. I like what the Poetry Foundation’s biography says about her after the release of her text The Autobiography of Red:

According to John D’Agata in the Boston Review, the book “first stunned the classics community as a work of Greek scholarship; then it stunned the nonfiction community as an inspired return to the lyrically based essays once produced by Seneca, Montaigne, and Emerson; and then, and only then, deep into the 1990s, reissued as “literature”and redesigned for an entirely new audience, it finally stunned the poets.” D’Agata sees Carson’s earlier work as an essayist everywhere in her poetry, along with her deep absorption in Classical languages. Carson’s work, D’Agata alleges, asks one to consider “how prosaic, rhetorical, or argumentative can a poem be before it becomes something else altogether, before it reverts to prose, to essay?”

~

Altogether, Boston provided nourishment of many kinds: gustatory, intellectual, emotional, poetical…food for thought.

An eBook arrives

Thanks to Brick Road Poetry Press, there is now a Kindle version of my poetry collection Water-Rites. I think the only place to purchase it is Amazon.com and the link is here: Water-Rites ebook.

I haven’t forgotten about posting poems of place-longing and homescapes. Just feeling a bit short on time this week.

water-rites_cover

Endemophilia, toponesia, psychoterric states

Thanks to poet Annie Finch, I came across a thoughtful essay in Aeon magazine–an exercise in synthesis and interdisciplinary thinking that connects with Naess and his notion of ecosophy; and with Bachelard and others whose work I have lately been reading and thinking about. Liam Heneghan combines ecology, botany and topography with Winnie-the-Pooh and explores transience and trans-placement from several viewpoints. He looks at how so many of us are transplants, foreign “invaders,” culturally and biologically, and asks us to think about how we feel about place–home-place, in particular.

Not all of us connect with the concept of a home-dwelling anymore; but if we do so, that place is generally closely associated with childhood, observes Heneghan. He cites environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht and says:

…we do not yet have an adequate vocabulary to address our ‘psychoterric’ states — or how the state of the Earth relates to our states of mind. To balance the negative psychological state of ‘nostalgia’, a couple of years ago Albrecht proposed ‘endemophilia’ (the sense of being truly at home within one’s place and culture — or ‘homewellness’). To balance the term ‘topophilia’, a love of place, Albrecht opposes ‘solastalgia’ — the desolate feeling associated with the chronic decline of a homescape. Solastalgia names the emotions we have at the loss of species and habitats through climate change and other environmental changes. We should all expect a lot more of it.

I do know those feelings, and I feel happy to have terms for them! Yet I argue that we do have an adequate vocabulary for how the state of the Earth relates to our states of mind, and that vocabulary is artistic. I believe the finest expression of these kinds of emotional-memory sensations can be found mainly through art. My task for myself in the coming weeks is to gather a few examples of endemophilia, solastalgia, and other “psychoterric states” in poetry. I’ve already got a few in mind.

Please read Heneghan’s essay if ecopoetics or the notion of homescape appeals to you.