Why Poetry Criticism?

To be learning something is the greatest of pleasures not only to the philosopher but also to the rest of [hu]mankind, however small their capacity for it.”

— Aristotle Poetics ( 1448b 10-15 )

I created this blog to improve my poetry writing abilities and my understanding of poetry. Studying literature reveals new applications for critical perspectives such as those provided by eco-feminism and psychoanalysis. These insights, combined with those provided by the more traditional set of tools used in literary analysis, provide a great set of chisels and lenses to chip and scrutinize away at any literary work. Digging away at any substrate shows its fault lines and the places where ideas are most likely to trickle through and reveals the veins of shining ore that remain untapped beneath the surface.

Poetry has a long history. Oral traditions passed stories between generations using memorized verses. It was the fear of losing these rich oral traditions that prompted Socrates legendary contempt for writing. Socrates feared writing things down would inevitably lead to forgetfulness.

The invention of writing allowed for once spoken things to be written. I.A. Richards, an influential writer on poetic criticism, described how poetry exists in an in-between world alongside all the things treasured most by humanity: “I need only instance ethics, metaphysics, morals, religion, aesthetics, and the discussions surrounding liberty, nationality, justice , love, truth, faith, [and] knowledge to make this plain,” wrote Richards in his Practical Criticism : A Study of Literary Judgement (1929).

Poetry also excels at dealing with a problem, which by its nature often eludes the sciences. This problem is the paradox. In The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry (1947), Cleanth Brooks wrote that it “is the scientist whose truth requires a language purged of every trace of paradox.”

In a similar spirit, philosophers like Aristotle (384-322 BCE), in his Poetics , and Martin Heidegger, in his book Poetry, Language, Thought (1971), have weighed in on the subject and taken an interest in poetry over the course of its existence. I hope that all literary criticism on this blog will illuminate new heights for all, poets and poetry enthusiasts alike, to strive for.

Why the focus on environmental poetry?

Sir Philip Sidney defending poetry said, “Nature[…] her world is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden.” While poetry may deliver a golden world in place of the natural, this vision of a golden world is in sharp contrast with growing ecological threats and disasters looming on the horizon. Disasters that might still be preventable with the right combination of thinking and effort.

My deep connection with the natural environment seems to transcend my memories of that connection. The shapes of trees I frequented stand out more than recollections of other places and times. Experiences like picking blueberries in Algonquin Park and seeing a Buffalo herd roam across Yellowstone’s hilly-plains are more present in my mind than the less vivid stuff of days past.

Once a person is touched by the quiet of a Fall morning, or the chattering of flighty birds in a canopy, the setting usually works its own magic to the point they would spend all their time in deep meditation if they could.

The enjoyment of being in nature was kindled for me by a childhood filled with tent-camping in beavers, cubs, scouts, ventures, army cadets, and in an ecology diploma from Fleming College.

Ecology is the study of interactions between biotic (living), abiotic (non-living), and cultural (socio-political) elements measured across the medium of space-time. Ecology illuminates a plethora of evidence against human kind on the charges of species extinction and poor stewardship. So, perhaps, by learning more about ecology and poetry, questions might be resolved about the nature of our complex relation to Mother Earth.

Everything on the planet is part of one living ecosystem. I am curious about what poets from different eras and backgrounds had to say about their relation to the natural environment. The ad-mixture of science and poetry is always a fine mix and should produce something for all to learn from.