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Unnatural Ecopoetics: Unlikely Spaces in Contemporary Poetry
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The shift toward and identification of what I am calling unnatural ecopoetics represents an important development for ecopoetics and more broadly for ecocriticism--first, through broader applicability of ecopoetic theory and second, through increased clarity surrounding the term ecopoetics. The identification and detailed breakdown of the central tenets of both early ecopoetics and the unnatural ecopoetics I am espousing here helps stabilize a field that has long been afflicted with conflicting definitions and understandings. Since its inception, the lack of clarity inherent within the term ecopoetics has been surprisingly detrimental to the field's expansion. I propose defining ecopoetics as a theoretical lens that studies the methods by which poets attempt to express the material and nonmaterial elements of real-world environmental experience, including subjective elements of that encounter, through poetic form and language. Put another way, ecopoetics investigates how poets attempt to use unique forms to capture the multiple elements that constitute lived experience while simultaneously foregrounding the textual space in which such expression occurs. Rather than separating the material world from nonmaterial aspects of experience, this understanding of the term ecopoetics focuses on the ways in which individual memory, personal experience, ideology, and the limitations of the senses shape experience and, just as importantly, on how new forms and experimentation with language can work to expose the agential power of the material and nonmaterial worlds alike. Unnatural ecopoetics employs experimental forms and self-reflexive commentary to express the disjointed and nonlinear aspects of experience while simultaneously moving the inherent limitations of the text to the fore. By continuing to move the definition of ecopoetics forward in this way, I not only expand the applicability of ecopoetic theory across literary studies and gain a more diverse understanding of the ways in which people from a variety of economic situations, cultures, locations, and ethnic backgrounds understand and interact with their environments, but also acknowledge the ways in which nature and culture are irreversibly intertwined.