Sustainable Poetry

Poetry is not my only interest. If you have visited my other blog, Help Heal the World, you know that I fret about the way we use and abuse resources. I’ve written a book of poems about our shaky relationship with what we eat, The Great Hunger. I compiled a reading list of books about food, Feed: Reading Lists for Those Who Eat. I’ve ranted about plastic packaging and non-local food. The more I study these issues, the more I preach at and plead with friends and family to Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose and Refuse what we don’t need.Turn those old t-shirts into cloth shopping bags; frequent local farmers’ markets, avoid like poison artificial dyes and additives.

Perhaps these 4Rs seem alien to the art and craft of poetry. However, it is obvious to me that writing poetry, writing almost anything short of a To-Do list, resembles the 4Rs of sustainable living. I recycle memories and experiences to form the content of a poem. I certainly reuse the familiar vocabulary of contemporary American English and repurpose the original material to use as art. I refuse to include whatever seems unnecessary, didactic, sentimental or obscene. It is true that there is nothing new under the sun, that poets, like scientists, stand on the shoulders of giants. Whether the reused material is an epigraph, a received formal arrangement, or a basic insight, it counts in the economy of art. Poetry sustains us as we tend our backyard gardens of verse. Prufrock asks, “Do I dare to eat a peach?” I would if it’s as organic as a fresh poem.

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