The present ecological crisis
comes also from the cultural crisis due to not having understood that
Nature is not an object of inexhaustible consumption at our arbitrary
disposal, but it is, on the contrary, our own house, a house to be
preserved for the survival of the ecosystem and of our own species.
Isolated warnings in this sense
were already given in the '60s by the intellectuals of the "Club of
Rome" (Aurelio Peccei, Alexander King, Asimov, various Nobel prizes and
others), warnings that became concrete in 1972 with the famous
publication "The limits of the Growth" (1).
Analogous warnings were given
during the first Earth day, 22nd of April 1970 (2). This date can be
considered as the official starting date of the taking of conscience of
the global ecological crisis. Nevertheless, the consequent political
decisions, even if partial and insufficient, only began from the '90s
(Agenda 21, Protocol of Kyoto, etc.).
In this context gradually arose
the awareness that Progress and Development were not equivalent
concepts, in consideration of the fact that a boundless progress would
have conducted well soon to the exhaustion of the resources and to an
irreversible environmental crisis.
The birth of new ethics
myth of the boundless Progress also implied the idea of the human
superiority over Nature, considered as an inexhaustible resource in our
possession. When this
vertical vision of Man master of Nature (Anthropocentrism) collapsed, a
horizontal, or better circular vision of the relationship Man-Nature
once the dominant figure, turned himself to responsible figure of this
priority relationship. Responsibility inevitably brings with itself the
necessity of ethics (3). Dropped
the anthropocentrism, also the idea of exclusively inter-human ethics
were dropped in favor of an olistic vision in which Nature and Man are
a solid interconnected subject of ethics.
necessary and urgent environmental ethics are inserted in that wide
culture that asserts itself in those years, a culture that looks again
for values and goals without entrapping them in ideologies nor in
hierarchical superstructures (4).
a research for new values has been supported by different literary
activities, at first limited and occasional, then more aware and
organized in specific cultural movements, which were arising in various
parts of the world, especially in the English-speaking countries.
Among these movements is Ecopoetry,
dealt with in this article, a movement that seems the most effective,
also considering that Poetry, with the power of its suggestions and the
ability to arouse emotions, is able to awaken the consciences setting
them up to listening to the problems of the 21st Century and,
therefore, to taking actions to resolve them.
these new literary activities many works of criticism derive, taking
the denomination of "Ecocriticism." (5)
counts by now several critical essays, Manifestos, publications and
anthologies in many parts of the world.
Ecological literature in Italy
in Italy begins the critical study of literary works introducing
ethical interactions between Man and Nature.
The first deep study in this direction has been realized in 2007 by
Serenella Jovino with the volume "Literary Ecology". For Ms Jovino the literary ecology must be intended
as a critical study of literary texts, also of the past, directed not
only to the research and the analysis of ecological themes, but also to
the social, economic and ethical interconnections deriving from the
present environmental crucial situation.
the first part of Ms Jovino’s volume, an up-to-date and complete
documentation of the literary activities related to ecology, primarily
Anglo-Saxon, can be found. In the second part of the book, due to the
lack of analogous Italian recent references, some authors (Calvino,
Pasolini, Ortese, etc.) are considered in order to analyze their ante
The volume by Ercole Ferrari "The
idea of Nature in the history of literature" also analyses authors of
the past which dealt with environment or Nature.
They are limited and sporadic
interventions, not framed in a conscious Echo-literary cultural Italian
Alone stands the case, in the
year 2005, of the publication of a text of Ecopoetry: "Ecopoems in the
Space - Time" (7) by M. Ivana Trevisani Bach, author of this article, a
book of ecopoems tracing back to analogous texts of "Ecopoetry" in
English, that also contains a Manifesto of the Italian Ecopoetry (8).
The anthology "Green American",
by Barron and Anna Re, Edizioni Ambiente, is going to be published. It
is a collection of American texts about literature and environment
translated into Italian (9).
Ecopoetry: the contents
then, what is Ecopoetry? In Wikipedia this definition can be found:
"Ecopoetry is a particular kind of poetry which developed in the last few
decades of the 20th Century in the English-speaking countries and that
gave rise to a real poetic movement based on themes and subjects related with
definition seems clear and exhaustive. In fact, some more precise
information is necessary. The
mere fact of writing verses on Nature or on Ecology is not enough to be
eco-poet, as a matter of fact, is not the chorister of the Nature of
Arcadia or of the classical bucolic poetry, but is one who picks and
underlines, besides its beauty, the problems that upset Nature.
therefore the poetry of the man who feels interconnected with the
creation and that reports emotions of it from the inside; the tortured
animal, the uprooted secular tree, the whole polluted Earth, directly
speak through the verses and send their messages of alarm or pain. As
the English poetess Helen Moore (10) writes:
our Great Mother,
speak through me...
may I be a channel,
for Nature's words!
conclusion, the Ecopoet is the medium between natural world and human
community; he does not only speak about Nature, but he also speaks for
Nature and, to do it, he doesn't ascend onto a pedestal to point out
the way that must be followed, he is not the "prophet", he doesn't make
resounding and commemorative poetry but simple poetry, as humble as the
oppressed subjects that express themselves through it.
ecopoet is not tormented by his afflicted ego, as crowds of poets have
egocentrically done for a long time, but he addresses the other living
beings, giving them voice.
Pétofi, the most famous Hungarian poet, used to say, obviously
referring to the patriotic-romantic feeling of his time:
you can't do anything else but sing
pains and your joys,
world can live without you
just throw away the Sacred Lira of the poet… (11)
Something very similar is
performed nowadays by the eco-poet, dealing Nature and its safeguard,
that is, the theme that imperiously asserted itself in our consciences
in these decades, in a circumstantial and conscious way. Thus, Poetry
regains its role of communicator of collective emotions.
The ecopoet becomes the spokesman
of the environmental emergency and establishes a new relationship with
Nature based on parity, and acquires awareness of the rights of the
other living beings to which he recognizes a biological nature similar
to ours. Hence the duty to cause no sufferings to them and to protect
the environment that allows our life as well as theirs.
Ecopoetry: the form
Ecopoetry breaks free from the
isolation of the restricted erudite literary cultures, it abandons the
old sibylline fashions of the avant-gardes and the poetic habits tied
up to particular local traditions, to open to a simple and clear poetic
communication comprehensible to all the cultures, and therefore also
easily translatable, to spread among a wider audience, as required by
the General Conference of UNESCO in the message of the World Day of
Poetry 2007 (12).
Theoretical basis of Ecopoetry
the Ecopoetry movement, a reflection has been developed about the way
poetry is nowadays dealt with.
eco-poem consists both of an emotional moment, typical of any poetic
communication, and of a rational moment, the awareness of the
environmental emergency and the necessity to find solutions. Thus, the
cultural prejudice of the last Century that fixed a precise separation
between reason and artistic creation becomes a superseded idea.
to the Canadian poetess and researcher Di Brand (studying the recent
poetic movements born after Post-modernism, that she temporarily
defines "Post-post-modern") the separation between these two realities
has produced, in the past time, a conflict in the expressive ability.
An expression merely emotional in art
and merely rational in science and philosophy. Such a barrier is today "repaired" in some kinds of
artistic productions through the "reparative thinking", that is a way
to interconnect thoughts and feelings, able to produce an artistic
multidimensional expression near to the sensibility and the cultural
formation of today's men.
binomial of this type can be found in Ecopoetry. Why Poetry and Ecology
put together? Because this is the emergency of the present world and,
on this subject, emotion and reason must call us to our
responsibilities and lead us to sustainable actions.
know how to describe with precise mathematical data and with detailed
analysis the actual environmental crisis, they also know how to suggest
solutions to this problem, but it is not sure that they will succeed in
persuade us to action. The environmental sciences alone will not
succeed in leading men to the protection of Nature.
and full-detailed data can be published on the deforestation, or
A deafening noise
rapes the silence of the Wood.
The blade of steel greedily,
screeching and vibrating,
tears to pieces the wet big trunk
of the high, marvelous,
majestic Beech tree.
The stem bends,
creaking on a side,
and interlaces its branches
with its brother-branches
seeking a last hug.
Then, with immense rumble,
it crashes abruptly
making the earth tremble,
in the scared big forest
frightened by the last outrage. (13)
And immediately we feel turned
into trees and forests. We live their pain as ours. And it is proper,
because the destiny of the Earth is also our destiny.
Ecopoetry and the Globalization
globalization carries new forms of environmental colonization,
therefore the principles of the environment must refer to global
to exploitation and bribery, the zones of greater pollution coincide
almost always with those of greater poverty. Accordingly, the
ecological emergencies are more and more connected to social
globalization facilitates not only the global exchange of commodities
and financial products, but also of immaterial goods such as ideas,
skills and information. What
is more, thanks to the new means of communication (Internet, TV, etc.)
they travel very quickly into the world. The
information on the actual environmental crisis is therefore globally
known, nevertheless a new ecological moral has difficulties in finding
consolidation, perhaps because it is insufficiently supported by
the new ethical values have to spread globally, also global has to be
their reference language. A consolidated global language is,
notoriously, the scientific one, but also literature has to take the
responsibility of a new demand of intercultural communication, able to
be widely spread without the support of cultural references from the
refined societies, often dominant. For
the birth of new forms of literary communication, will be of help the
de-construction of the language recommended by the post-modern
reflection, following paths of universal comprehensibility and
continuous and superabundant storm of news from the media has
accustomed our minds to separate the words, the images and the
information from the emotions. This
has created a distortion among the rational thought, that gives an
explanation to the events, and the enormous quantity of emotions that
on such events are restrained.
This has produced an aboulia of ideals and values, that has deprived us
of the necessary enthusiasm to face the emergencies of our time.
however, could wake up the benumbed and apathetic minds making them
sensitive to the values of the 21st Century.
It, feeding of the sap made of
thoughts, emotions and imagination coming from the different human
communities, always creates new solicitations which, on their turn, are
universally transmitted, collected and developed.
literary culture could have a great influence on the way human beings
feel and think, and therefore on the way we act, with ecologically
correct behaviors of free and careful participation.
living being among the living beings, becomes aware of his small place
in the universe and of his unprivileged presence on the Earth but, at
the same time, of his role of destruction or protection of this common
House. In particular, the poet, as Jonathan Bate writes, " must have
the ability to return us to the Earth that is our house." (15)