Aaron M. Moe

Assistant Professor of English at Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame

Zoopoetics Revisited

grasshopper[Please Note: This is a second iteration of concepts that continued to develop into publications. I leave this post here, though, as a record of that progression.]

One of the reasons why I love teaching is because of the inscrutable nature of the epiphany—and not just the epiphanies students (hopefully) experience.  I love it when I experience an epiphany, when the flux of several texts and experiences create some sort of synergy out of which rises an insight.

The other day, one of my professors revisited the etymological definition of ecopoetics:  eco, from the Greek root oikos meaning hearth or home . . . poetics from the Greek poiesis meaning a making or to makeEcopoetics, then, at its best, has to do with making a home.  It has to do with dwelling in the ecosphere. I was familiar with this definition, but I have been working at defining zoopoetics in a better way than my previous article.  Then, it hit me.

Zoopoetics, etymologically speaking, has to do with how animals (zoo) help make (poiesis) the poem.  This could be expanded to how animal agency has helped make, shape, and extend a particular poet’s overall poetic vision—her or his ever evolving theory and praxis of what poetry is and what poetry does.

I would clarify this further, suggesting, for instance, in the case of EEC, that not just animals but what I would call animal rhetorics help make the poem, shape the poem, give direction to EEC’s innovative poetics.  This is what my article “Zoopoetics: A Look at Cummings, Merwin, & the Expanding Field of Ecocriticism” explored:  the interspecies, multicultural space of the poem in which human and nonhuman registers of rhetoric are present.  However, in that article, I do not define zoopoetics from its etymology, which, as I outline above, provides much clarity.

Much more could be said on zoopoetics and animal rhetorics, but I plan on hashing out those ideas in preparation for my qualifying exams.


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