I really like this word. The writer who’s introduced it to me, Jonathan Bate, prefers “ecopoesis” – but somehow “ecopoetics” seems more evocative. Bate proposes “ecopoesis” as an alternative term to “ecocriticism”. Whatever you call it, he’s talking about an approach to literature grounded in a valuing of ecology, as feminist approaches are grounded in gender, and Marxist approaches in economic power relations.
Bate makes some intriguing points in his beautiful work, The Song of the Earth (2000). One is that the word “environment” is inherently anthropocentric:
“’Environ’ means ‘around’. Environmentalists are people who care about the world around us. The world around us: anthropocentrism, the valuation of nature only in so far as it radiates out from humankind, remains a given” (p. 138).
Bate argues that we would do better to use terms like “ecology” and “ecosystems” – recognising that we are not apart from the natural world, but part of it.
Having discovered that there exists something called ecopoetics, I feel like I’ve come home. This is an approach to literature and literary criticism that wants to listen to the things I want to talk about, and vice versa. I know I’m coming in late – Bate’s book was published twelve years ago. Feel free to bombard me with up to date references, journals, websites…