The Next Big Thing
by Joshua Corey on March 4th, 2013
My colleague Davis Schneiderman tagged me to take part in The Next Big Thing, a series of self-interviews with writers intended to help get word of their books out in a viral, necropastorally sort of way. So here are my answers to the given questions. A bit later on, I will have thing to say about the Ecopoetics Conference at Berkeley, just concluded, where The Arcadia Project made its West Coast debut and had, I think, a sizable impact on the discussion and a rapidly evolving sense among various constituencies of the possibilities for ecopoetics going forward.
What is the working title of the book?
The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral
Where did the idea come from for the book?
It began with my co-editor, G.C. Waldrep, who for years it seems had been nudging me about the constellation of innovative poets whose work engages the natural world—sometimes from quite surprising angles. In our conversations, we evolved a notion of the postmodern pastoral as something distinct from yet overlapping with the larger emerging field of ecopoetics. Ecopoetics represents a diverse grouping of strategies and aesthetics that coalesce around a dual engagement with ecological crisis and with language itself. Pastoral is a differently diverse genre or affective regime that concerns itself with our ideological fantasies about nature—postmodern pastoral in particular tends to deconstruct, deform, or mutate those fantasies, without disavowing them or claiming, as more naïve environmental poetries do, to put readers into an authentic “saving” relation to nature.
We began with a few core writers, some of them from rather different aesthetic spheres. These spheres were eventually provisionally divided into four possibilities for postmodern pastoral:
- New Transcendentalisms, which as the name suggests means an engagement with the traditions of Thoreauvian nature writing (a few names: Forrest Gander, Sarah Gridley, Brian Teare, Dan Beachy-Quick);
- Textual Ecologies: poems that play with the often made but not often enough examined analogy between poetic form (“page as field”) and ecological flows (Lisa Robertson, Leslie Scalapino, Paul Legault, Richard Greenfield);
- Local Powers: poems critically engaged with particular degraded or refreshed landscapes, cityscapes, dreamscapes (Stephen Ratcliffe, C.D. Wright, Patrick Pritchett, Jack Collom);
- Necro/Pastoral: poems invested in the uncanny deadness of the human, the uncanny aliveness of the nonhuman, and the hybridity of both (Ed Roberson, Gabriel Gudding, Robert Fitterman, Joyelle McSweeney).
What genre does your book fall under?
Poetry and other manifestations of irreducible folly.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I think I will simply choose to cite a few film titles here: Los Angeles Plays Itself, Koyaanisqatsi, Safe (Todd Haynes), Melancholia. If Julianne Moore is willing to record an audiobook version of all 500+ pages of this poetry, have her agent call me.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Vulnerable utopias/utopias of vulnerability.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
G.C. and I spent about five years sorting through hundreds of books and magazines before a manuscript finally emerged.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
G.C. not only inspired me, as noted above, but was indefatigable in moving things along even when my energy was lowest. I, and the hundred-odd poets represented in the anthology, owe him a very great deal.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
A lot of the writing associated with ecology and environmentalism has a heavy, pious, doomsaying quality. Our anthology proves, I think, that one can take a poetic stance toward the natural world charged by insouciance as well as heaviness. Many of these poems are beautiful; many of them are outrageous or provocative or just plain fun to read. Above all we as editors were committed to poems that moved us as poems—that had a regard for language at least as serious as their regard for ecological crisis and environmental disaster.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The Arcadia Project is published by Ahsahta Press, one of the great independent presses publishing contemporary poetry today. It is available from SPD and from discerning booksellers everywhere.
My tagged writers for next Wednesday are: