Zurita and Ecology: Leonard Schwartz and Joyelle McSweeney

by on Jan.24, 2012

[I thought this article relates to the discussion we are having in the “gaudy” discussion thread below:]


…Grace of its linguistic and visionary commitment, its capacity to imagine what is perforce outside experience, Zurita has written a poetry that surpasses what a more politically committed poetry could have achieved. Zurita’s poems might be figured as an eco-poetry in which the space between nature and history is closed up, once we realize that the work reimagines the entirety of the ocean in such a way as to include those thrown from planes into that ocean. And reimagines the mountains in such a way as to include the Disappeared thrown from planes into their snows until one can only speak of those mountains as containing those people. And renders the desert no longer conceivable except if the voices and the deaths in the desert are made a part of that desert. It was Camille Dungy, the editor of the anthology Black Nature: Four Centuries of African-American Nature Poetry who pointed out in her CCP appearance (#221) that the poets in her book do not necessarily view a tree as simply a tree, since it might also be the case that someone was lynched from that particular tree; they do not look at an agricultural site as an idyl, since one’s ancestors might have worked that land in slavery. Indeed, only certain privileged, bourgeois perspectives can divorce “nature” from “history” in order to yield a “nature poetry” that refreshes us in its aftermath. I have argued that to view Nature apart from other discourses and entities (like language for example) is analogous to the pornographic (without taking any position pro or con on pornography), where one function (Nature) is fetishized and isolated from other functions and possibilities (as sex is in pornography). By contrast to a nature poetry, an eco-poetics seeks out complicated interrelationships between multiple modes of the sensual. Zurita’s is one of the great poetries to overcome the artificiality of the nature/history distinction, to give us the Tree and the invisible histories enacted in and around the Tree, as Dungy calls for.

The view Schwartz take of Zurita shows its relationship to the “necropastoral” (as opposed to “Nature Poetry” or “Political Poetry”, never mind that he uses the “porn” trope that I so dislike.), which Kent suggested was incompatible in the comments below the “gaudy” post.

Here’s an excerpt from Joyelle’s piece about Zurita and the necropastoral:

Pinochet’s military converted the very landscape into a mass grave, dropping bodies from airplanes into the mountains and oceans, so that they became, in the words of Zurita’s song, “stuck, stuck to the rocks, to the sea and the mountains/stuck, stuck to the rocks, to the sea and the mountains.” This kernel of assemblage is repeated in all the micro and macro structures of Zurita’s visionary landscape, which saturates and resaturates Pinochet’s landscape– the living and the dead, the ghostly and the dead, the lover’s body and the corpse, the soldier’s body and the victim, the voice and the body, the image and the sound, the page and the voice, everywhere in this work is an ‘everywhere’, a total penetration of fragmented matters which can never form a single whole well intact body again but only a kind of flexing field made up of bits and fragments of bodies, voices, teeth, hair, bodily fluids, landscapes, mountain chains, whole continents shattered and their remains heaped up in identical ‘niches’…

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