“The Poetics of Forests” recap and recording

Tara C. Trapani

Last Wednesday, Orion Magazine, the Yale Forest Forum, and the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology held the next in a series of online tree-related events to celebrate Orion's volume Old Growth. Our own Mary Evelyn Tucker was in conversation with poet Ellen Bass about “The Poetics of Forests.” 

Ellen kicked off the discussion with a reading of her poem River about salmon mating in the Mackenzie River in Oregon that was rich with the energy and passion of the rushing, living water. Later, Mary Evelyn read Ellen's piece, Fungus on Fallen Alder at Lookout Creek, a love note to the woods and the turkey tail mushrooms she found there, inspired by her experience at the Andrews Experimental Forest.

They went on to talk about how much poetry and creativity have in common with science, and how science can enhance the wonder of the world around us rather than trample it. Both rely on the ability to not know and to be curious. Ellen identified the desire to find out more about the world as one of their primary shared qualities. Paying attention to the detail around us is another–the ability to be with and aware of detail, unnoticed by most–which inspires awe and amazement and spurs us on to further exploration. She went on to say how the “building of rich worlds” in her poetry comes from careful observation of the tiniest things. 

One of the loveliest moments was Ellen's explanation of the original Italian meaning of stanza as “room,” and how poetry provides us spaces–rooms in which to process our emotions related to eco-grief and despair. I continue to hold the powerful image of standing within a spacious stanza, outside of time and the outer world, and having all the room we need to feel and tend to and transform our sorrow and anxiety. 

You can watch the recording of Mary Evelyn and Ellen's conversation below, as well as the recordings from the previous events in the series. 

Find out more about Ellen and her work at her website

Find out more about Old Growth from Orion Magazine