Ecocriticism and the Poiesis of Form: Holding on to Proteus demonstrates how a fractal imagination helps one hold the form of a poem within the reaches of Deep Time, and it explores the kinship between the hazy, liminal moment when Sound becomes Syllable and the hazy, liminal moment when the sage energy of the Atom made a leap toward the gaze of the first cell, to echo Merwin. Moe distills his methodology as follows: “My work?—I point,” asserted the aphorism. “That’s what I do.” To point, the project integrates a wide range of interdisciplinary ideas—including biosemiotics, fractals, phi, trauma theory, the Mandelbrot Set, hyperobjects, meditative chants, Goethe’s morphology, Ramanujan’s summation, a spiderweb’s sonic properties, and Thoreau’s sense of the plant-like burgeoning force of an Atom—in order to open up multiple trajectories. In this context, the volume foregrounds the insights of poets/storytellers including Hillman, Snyder, Anzaldúa, EEC, okpik, Whitman, Dickinson, Gladding, Melville, Morrison, and Toomer, for they are most attentive to that liminal moment when the vibratory hum in language, and in the cosmos, turns kinetic. As this volume draws on a wide range of writers from many backgrounds, it allows the myriad voices to engage with one another across differences in race, gender, and ethnicity. These writers show us how, to echo Dickinson, the “Freight / Of a delivered / Syllable – ” can split and how the energy unleashed came from, and points us back toward, the energy (un)making the forms of Gaia—a term that points toward not only Earth-as-superorganism but also toward the knowingness at work in/through/across all scales of the planet. The starting point for discussing the energy of a poem can no longer begin with the human; rather, Holding on explores how the poem’s energy is but a sliver of a hyperobject “massively distributed” throughout the cosmos—a sage energy that brings forth form.
The general origin of poetry resides, in part, in the instinct to imitate. But it is an innovative imitation. An exploration of the oeuvres of Walt Whitman, E. E. Cummings, W. S. Merwin, and Brenda Hillman reveals the many places where an imitation of another species’ poiesis (Greek, makings) contributes to breakthroughs in poetic form. However, humans are not the only imitators in the animal kingdom. Other species, too, achieve breakthroughs in their makings through an attentiveness to the ways-of-being of other animals. For this reason, mimic octopi, elephants, beluga whales, and many other species join the exploration of what zoopoetics encompasses. Zoopoetics provides further traction for people interested in the possibilities when and where species meet.
“Zoopoetics is an original, lucid examination of how animals shape the human art of poetry. Drawing upon the foundational work of such scholars as Paul Shepard, Donna Haraway, and David Abram, Aaron M. Moe uses the Derridian concept of ‘zoopoetics’ to deepen our understanding of language and our understanding of what animals mean to humans. Without other species, we might be essentially voiceless. This is a significant study of ‘animality,’ one of the central paradigms in the field of ecocriticism.”
—Scott Slovic, editor of ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment
“Moe’s Zoopoetics lucidly demonstrates that poetry is a shared space in which human and other animals may ‘stretch toward’ each other, a space in which many of our best poets in English attend to nonhuman poiesis. This is a timely and important contribution to ecocriticism and animal studies.”
—Helena Feder, author of Ecocriticism and the Idea of Culture