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Other Editions 1. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. Sort order. There are no discussion topics on this book yet. About Eugene Schlanger. Eugene Schlanger. Trivia About September 11 Wall Reading flight in McKay's poems, I demonstrate how McKay provides a strategy for recognizing a human desire to fly as an anti-ecological version of the will to power; reading birdsong, I develop a way of measuring phenomenological distances between poet and bird, language and world.
Between chapters, I include what I am calling Ecotones, fictional accounts of a literary critic struggling to enact the interdisciplinary ecocriticism outlined in this dissertation. Each Ecotone—Field Marks, Field Guides, Field Notes—focuses on different versions of "field," highlighting the intellectual risks and benefits associated with occupying a space between.
Finally, since McKay is a living writer at the most prolific phase of his career, I conclude by suggesting how future studies of McKay's work, including on what he calls "geopoetry," might productively benefit from the strategies I develop here. It's a Bird! It's a Plane! Steller'sjay Fig. Properties of lift Fig. My entire family has, perhaps, mastered the art of loving disinterestedness—they have supported my studies unconditionally, and for that I am grateful.
My supervisor, Laurie Ricou, has compelled me to take risks I likely would have avoided and surely would have regretted not taking without his challenging, confident attitude. His selfless commitment and professionalism—as a scholar, a teacher, a mentor, an editor, and a human being—will continue to influence me in my career and in my life.
M y committee members, Mike Healey and Laura Moss, have been model readers and supportive mentors—even when out of the country.
I can't imagine what this essay would have looked like without Laura's astute, slightly suspicious "So whats? Thanks, too, to the Department of English, which has supported me throughout. I have benefited greatly from the support and guidance of particular faculty members: Susanna Egan, Lisa'Grekul, Kevin McNeilly, Mark Vessey, and, especially, mentor and friend Bi l l New, without whose openness, humility, intelligence, and constant encouragement I would not be writing, here.
In addition, I have had the serendipitous fortune to work with colleagues and friends whose interest in and contributions to this project have been more, perhaps, than I have deserved— more, certainly, than I could have ever expected; neither thanks nor cheers are enough for Maia Joseph, Duffy Roberts, and Lisa Szabo. To those colleagues and friends who have contributed less directly to this work, but no less significantly to my life's work, I can only offer my sincerest gratitude and hopes for continuing. I want to extend special thanks to Kitty Lewis at Brick Books for her generosity and spirit—may your garage be ever full—to Kieran Kealy, many of whose bird books found their way to my desk and proved very useful, and to Simon Bonner for birding companionship and expertise.
Finally, this dissertation, this degree, this decade, this life are not possible without my partner and my wife Maryann Martin. No adjectives or adverbs are sufficient to modify my love for her and my appreciation for all she has done to save me from myself. This is for you, Moon Eyes.
Wilson Part One: Don McKay in the Ecotone Since , Canadian poet Don McKay has published eleven books of poetry and two collections of essays about poetics and nature, yet very little had been written about his work when I undertook this project. That changed, of course, once I began researching and writing, once McKay began to achieve recognition beyond a community of writers and editors, and to garner interest from a growing cohort of scholars with environmental interests and poetical affinities. Between the moment I decided to write a dissertation about Don McKay and the moment I finished writing it, much new.
McKay has also been nominated for numerous awards since , including three 2 times for the international Griffin Poetry Prize established in These qualities are evident throughout McKay's oeuvre; in the following pages, I develop a way of thinking about McKay's paradoxical relation to language and his desire to pay attention.
For all this recent critical attention, however, this is the first book-length study of prominent aspects in McKay's body of work. Bartlett's collection, part of Guernica Press's Writers Series, while comprehensive and timely, consists entirely of previously published pieces, that in some sense indicate the lack of sustained critical attention to McKay in Canada. Of the fourteen pieces included in Don McKay: Essays on His Works, nine have been previously published as book reviews, though most have been revised for inclusion in the book; moreover, of the sixty items included in the book's list of secondary sources—ostensibly to be used by scholars interested in writing about McKay's corpus—forty-four are reviews, one is a response to a review, two are encyclopaedia entries, two are M.
That leaves a scant nine academic articles covering an impressive writing career. Given this dearth of critical attention to Don McKay's oeuvre, it was appropriate, in , to attempt a focussed, single-author study. In , this project is even more timely. Though I do not want to give the impression that the field of McKay studies remains as lonely as it once was, only three academic articles have appeared since in addition to Bartlett's collection, theses, and dissertations : Adam Dickinson's "Lyric Ethics: Ecocriticism, Material Metaphoricity, and the Poetics of Don McKay and Jan Zwicky" and 3 Alanna F.
The strategy of approach I use to frame my reading of nature and, more specifically, birds in McKay's poetry, namely ecocriticism, has been struggling to achieve the status of a bonafide critical, theoretical, and pedagogical genre, especially in Canada. This dissertation proposes an interdisciplinary ecocritical approach to Don McKay's poetry.
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My strategy positions McKay's attention to biological and ecological specificity within a tradition of English-Canadian writing about nature that goes back at least as far as Alexander. Mackenzie's account of his travels across the continent.
If Northrop Frye's focus on Canadian poets' "terror in regard to nature" and Margaret Atwood's claim that "Canadian writers as a whole do not trust Nature" 49 indicate what Christoph Irmscher identifies as "stubbornly anthropocentric rather than ecocentric" models of Canadian identity formation, then McKay's poetry and poetics operates in contradistinction to them. Not explicitly concerned with questions of national identity, McKay articulates a desire to reconsider the way humans relate to, and write about those relations to, the other-than-human.
This desire is most clearly and concisely articulated in the essay "Otherwise than Place": "What interests me right now," he writes, "are the possibilities for reverse flow in a relationship that has been so thoroughly one-way. The saga of place has involved colonization, agriculture, exploitation, land use, resourcism, and development, sustainable and otherwise.
Without claiming to know precisely how to enact such a reversal, McKay offers "meditative medicine" 19 , ways of. Ecologists define ecotone as a "zone of transition between adjacent ecological systems, having a set. Literary critic John Elder elaborates on ecotone's potential function within environmentally conscious criticism, paying particular attention to the way an ecotone partakes "of some of the physical attributes of each constituent environment and harbour[s] some of the creatures from each as well. Within such a meeting ground, 'edge-effect' prevails, in a diversity of species that exceeds those of the separate ecosystems as well as the relative density of individual organisms" Reading In other words, the ecotone is a "special version of edge" that operates tropically—as a linguistic and literary trope—as "the site of artistic activity" Ricou Arbutus and ecologically as the site of interaction, overlap, and biodiversity not seen in other systems.
The metaphor works best when it isn't forced, when it isn't so far removed from the pre-linguistic, from, in this case, the ecological paradigm5 where it was first developed as a useful strategy of approach to evolutionary processes in nature. In a similar way, ecocriticism works best when critics pay as much attention to the world poets write about as they do to the words poets use. Poets' attention to the names of things asks for a similar attention on the part of discerning readers; a white-throated sparrow does not simply appear in McKay's "Drinking Lake 5 Superior" SD 96 any more than the Tantramar Marshes happen to be the setting of Charles G.
Roberts' "The Tantramar Revisited" Both are present to invest their respective poems with specific referents that exist inside and outside the textual world; the taxonomic and geographic specificity reflects a proximity to the natural world, an intimate knowledge, which combines with a lyric aesthetic to give the poetry an immediacy.
More than simply autobiographical decisions that posit the author in a geographical location at the time of writing, especially in the case of McKay's poetry, such choices represent acts of autobioregionalism: setting informs content, "[t]he nonhuman environment is present not merely as a framing device but as a presence that begins to suggest that human history is implicated in natural history" Buell Environmental 7. Setting is content and attention to the former by way of field guides, scientific monographs, and amateur observation reflects and modifies attention to the latter by way of close reading, contextualization, and comparisons to other texts.
In my dissertation, I pursue the hypothesis that ecological knowledge can significantly shape the process of reading poetry in the same way historical, political, and cultural knowledges can. By positioning my work deliberately in unfamiliar territory and destabilizing the comfortable, disciplined practice I have developed over years of specialized, academic training as a literary critic, I am embracing the principle of risk-taking that informs much interdisciplinary research. Dana Phillips articulates a version of risk when worrying there might be "a danger that those who, like [him]self, are interested in ecology, but whose training is not scientific and who must cope with an entirely different set of difficulties, will gloss over or minimize the significance of the problems ecologists face in understanding the natural world" Phillips is recapitulating Matthew Arnold's warning in "Literature and Science" that "[a] man of letters, it will perhaps be said, is not competent to discuss the comparative merits of 6 letters and natural science as means of education.
To this objection I reply, first of all, that his incompetence, if he attempts the discussion but is really incompetent for it, will be abundantly visible; nobody will be taken in; he will have plenty of sharp observers and critics to save mankind from that danger" For Arnold, the risk is two-fold: the risk of failure followed by the danger of being caught out. His plan for dealing with the danger is to approach a discussion about the natural sciences with a "tone of tentative inquiry, which befits a being of dim faculties and bounded knowledge" I, too, undertake an interdisciplinary study of McKay's poetry adopting a "tone of tentative inquiry.
As David Gilchrest asks in Greening the Lyre, "what can poetry really hope to accomplish in the face of environmental devastation and extraordinary rates of extinction? How can an art that is considerably marginalized in the public sphere alter the bearings of a culture bent on destruction?
My provisional response to Gilchrest by way of this dissertation on the poetry of Don McKay, is that poetry is capable of modelling a process of thinking our human relation to the nonhuman world. While I remain optimistic about poetry's capacity to inform environmental justice movements, for example, I am also aware that, as Tim Lilburn says in an interview, "failure runs through the project of intent" "Provisional" Failure as part of an epistemological, interrogative process, though, leads willing participants in potentially fruitful directions.
Chip Taylor, a lepidopterist studying migratory behaviour of monarch butterflies, puts it succinctly when talking with Sue Halpern, author of a book about monarch migration: "Failure tells you where to go next" My dissertation engages ecology's focus on "the interactions that determine the 7 distribution and abundance of organisms" and teases out the precariousness of those connections; the edges between all things are serrated, ready to tear, or be torn, at any moment.
Much ecocritical discourse does not attend to this edge, to its messy lines, its perforations, serrations, latches, and hesitant conjunctive "ands. By extension, for writer Chris Anderson, "the 'edge effect' has meant a greater variety and density of experience, a multiplying of perspectives. Life is fuller here on the edge," he writes, "and harder.