Brody Lane Shappell
“…environmental crisis involves a crisis of the imagination, the amelioration of which depends on finding better ways to imagine nature and humanities relationship to it’ – Lawrence Buell
How might a plant, tree, or insect experience a boreal landscape, especially in a rapidly changing environment? How can the poem’s form and word choice reflect each organism’s way of being in the world? Can our limited human faculties and (human-centered) understanding of language and meaning adequately express their unique (non-human) experience in the world? How can we portray and respect their “inherent strangeness”?
These are some of the questions I asked while writing poems for ITOC’s Boreal Forest Stories. As it turns out, trying to give voice to “non-human” flora and fauna is tricky business as a writer. Luckily, there were a few literary models out there, such as Louise Gluck’s The Wild Iris, Less Murray’s Translations from the Natural World, The Man Whom the Trees Loved by Algernon Blackwood, Richard Power’s The Overstory, and Ursula Le Guin’s The Direction of The Road.
In my work, I’ve tried to create a space/presence on the page for these “non-human” voices to take center stage and deliver their boreal “eco-logues.” Each voice (six in all) is versed in Gaia theory and informed by scientific research into symbiotic relationships (interaction of two different organisms living in close physical association), boreal ecology, plant science/sentience, and mycorrhizal networks (an underground network created by mycorrhizal fungi that connect individual plants together and transfer water, carbon, nitrogen, and other nutrients and minerals).
From the crucial backdrop of a quickly changing boreal forest, these voices hope to produce wonder-recognition-connection-closeness-reflection-understanding-humility-curiosity-and empathy.
Many thanks to Mary Beth Leigh and to other ITOC members for their support and feedback- Caitlin Scarano, Corinna Cook, Connie Stricks, Jeremy Pataky, Daryl Farmer, and Haley Dunleavy. And thank you to the many other inspiring ITOC artists/teachers/writers/performers/creators who shared their ideas, process, and work over the course of the program. It was wonderful to experience how you all brilliantly re-imagined the myriad of ways humans can relate and connect to the boreal world.
Brody Lane Shappell
Brody Lane Shappell’s travels and the places he’s lived have markedly shaped his poetry, especially Alaska. He’s currently pursuing a PhD in literature with an emphasis in creative writing at Texas Tech University. His most recent work explores matters of equity, animal rights, environmental change and abuse, the relationships between human/non-human worlds, and problematic wilderness ideologies. Brody’s poetry has been published in journals such as Cirque, Southwest Review, Fourth River and has work forthcoming in Antipodes.