Merwin Studies seeks to organize a panel at the ASLE Biennial Conference—Notes From Underground: The Depths of Environmental Arts, Culture, and Justice—in Moscow, Idaho, June 23–27, 2015.
The conference theme invites us to consider how looking “down, under, beneath and below” can lead to “imaginative, aesthetic, critical, pedagogical, and activist responses.”
Many of the suggested topics readily resonate with Merwin’s ecopoetics including geological time, soil biopolitics, gardening, roots, reclaiming, insects, witness, mycorrhizal networks, migrations, poetics of darkness (roots, mud, night), and grassroots politics and cultures. For the Conference’s full CFP, click here.
Merwin has had his hands in the earth, planting in Hawaii, for nearly four decades now. His practice of planting and poetry has lead to the grassroots formation of The Merwin Conservancy that actively brings people into interaction with Merwin’s forest of 850 species of palms. For Merwin, planting and poetry and activism are intimately interconnected. As such, they provide a fertile ground—perhaps even a mycorrhizal network—that could be explored further at the ASLE conference.
For instance, in “Place” from The Rain in the Trees, the speaker imagines the roots of the newly planted tree growing “in the earth full of the dead.” Merwin establishes the connection between planting and writing poetry when, in one poem later titled “Witness,” he explores the interrelationship between biological and linguistic extinction: “I want to tell what the forests / were like // I will have to speak / in a forgotten language.” In the poem just before “Place,” a native Hawaiian tree sits in a “plastic pot” waiting to be planted with its name, in “Latin,” written nearby. Writing a poem, planting a tree, and calling it by its native name are acts of resistance that reclaim the “forgotten language” of the forest as well as help restore a portion of the earth ravaged by the monocrops of the pineapple industry. To plant a tree, to write a poem, helps bring to fruition a soil biopolitics (or a politics of bioregionalism).
This small sampling of poems from The Rain in the Trees is but one place where these themes emerge in Merwin’s work. We therefore seek presentations that explore further Merwin’s activist tendencies as a poet/planter.
ASLE’s CFP encourages innovative panels from a wide range of participants:
We particularly encourage non-traditional modes of presentation, including hybrid, performative and collaborative works; panels that minimize formal presentation in favor of engaged emergent discussion; interdisciplinary approaches; environmentally inflected (earthy?) readings of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, film, theatre and other media; and proposals from outside the academic humanities, including submissions from artists, writers, teachers, practitioners, activists and colleagues in the social and natural sciences.
And so, presenters have flexibility to be creative in how their work helps unleash the energy of Merwin’s poetry and poetics.
Send 300 word abstract, contact information, and brief biography to one of the following email addresses by November 15. If interested, though, please communicate early as we will be actively seeking panelists:
merwinstudies [at] gmail [dot] com
amoe [at] saintmarys [dot] edu