earthweal weekly challenge: ANTHROPOCENE WILDERNESS


Greetings all — sorry to post this challenge late, other things are heavy on the plate. And apologies if it seems lopsided, awkward and repetitive. So churns this brain …

As your responses to the Everyday Extreme challenge came in last week, it occurred to me that we should include our crazy Anthropocene as resident now in the same wild we have visited much of late in our challenges. The unknowable power and ferocity of a heating climate, amplifying droughts and wildfires and hurricanes: This strange new wild measures our knowledge and certainty, just as a European settler in North America of the 16th century gazed in awe and terror a the vast consuming forest just beyond a field’s bounds.

Is it any different now for us, staring out at this looming beast of provoked nature?

All our boons bear the contrary of bane. Everyone’s aerosol hair spray lifted bouffants high enough to punch holes in the ozone. A civilization of moving cars invokes acid rain. Research indicates that the genes that contributed to the rapid evolution of the human brain are linked to autism and schizophrenia. (There are also genetic links between schizophrenia and both alcoholism and Alzheimers). What made us human also drives us crazy; the wild brain is the part of nature which we thought we tamed, but comes in the night to taunt us.

Learning to live in this new wild means accepting we can’t tame the ferocity of Anthropocene without understanding its wild nature. Likewise, an empathic language is needed to scale the wilderness on the flip side of the evolved human brain. My father-in-law is in the stages of late Alzheimers; the guy who helped lift the Saturn rocket into space can’t figure out now how to get food to his mouth.

Maybe it takes the poetry of our wild dark brains to perceive the awe and awfulness of what we have invoked, the wilderness of the provoked.

For this week’s challenge, write of the Anthropocene Wilderness.





A.R. Ammons

section one

Garbage has to be the poem of our time because
— garbage is spiritual, believable enough

to get our attention, getting in the way,
piling up, stinking, turning brooks brownish and

creamy white: what else deflects us from the
errors of our illusionary ways, not a temptation

to trashlessness, that is too or off, and,
anyway, unimaginable, unrealistic: I’m a

hole puncher or hole plugger: stick a finger
in the dame (dam, damn, dike), hold back the issue

of creativity’s flood, the forthcoming, futuristic,
the origins feeding trash: down by I-95 in

Florida where flatland’s ocean- and gulf-flat,
mounds of disposal rise (for if you dug

something up to make room for something to put
in, what about the something dug up, as with graves:)

the garbage trucks crawl as if in obeisance,
as if up ziggurats toward the high places gulls

and garbage keep alive, offerings to the gods
of garbage, of retribution, of realistic

expectation, the deities of unpleasant
necessities: refined, young earthworms,

drowned up in macadam pools by spring rains,
moisten out white in a day or so and, round spots,

look like sputum or creamy-rich, broken-up cold
clams: if this is not the best poem of the

century, can it be about the worst poem of the
century: it comes, at least, toward the end,

so a long tracing of bad stuff can swell
under its measure: but there on the heights

a small smoke wafts the sacrificial bounty
day and night to layer the sky brown, shut us

in as into a lidded kettle, the everlasting
flame these acres-deep of tendance keep: a

tree offering of a crippled plastic chair:
a played-out sports outfit: a hill-myna

print stained with jelly: how to write this
poem, should it be short, a small popping of

duplexes, or long, hunting wide, coming home
late, losing the trail and recovering it:

should it act itself out, illustrations,
examples, colors, clothes or intensify

reductively into statement, bones any corpus
would do to surround, or should it be nothing

at all unless it finds itself: the poem,
which is about the pre-socratic idea of the

dispositional axis from stone to wind, wind
to stone (with my elaborations, if any)

is complete before it begins, so I needn’t
myself hurry into brevity, though a weary reader

might briefly be done: the axis will be clear
enough daubed here and there with a little ink

or fined out into every shade and form of its
revelation: this is a scientific poem,

Asserting that nature models values, that we
have invented little (copied), reflections of

possibilities already here, this where we came
to and how we came: a priestly director behind the

black-chufffing dozer leans the gleanings and
reads the birds, millions of loners circling

a common height, alighting to the meaty streaks
and puffy muffins (pufffins?): there is a mound,

too, in the poet’s mind dead language is hauled
off to and burned down on, the energy held and

shaped into new turns and clusters,
the mind strengthened by what it strengthens: for

where but in the very asshole of comedown
is redemption: as where but brought low, where

but in the grief of failure, loss, error do we
discern the savage afflictions that turn us around:

where but in the arrangements love crawls us
through, not a thing left in our self-display

unhumiliated, do we find the sweet seed of
new routes: but we are natural: nature, not

we, gave rise to us: we are not, though, though
natural, divorced from higher, finer configurations:

tissues and holograms of energy circulate in
us and seek and find representations of themselves

outside us, so that we can participate in
celebrations high and know reaches of feeling

and sight and thought that penetrate (really
penetrate) far, far beyond these our wet cells,

right on up past our stories, the planets, moons,
and other bodies locally to the other end of

the pole where matter’s forms diffuse
and energy loses all means to express itself except

as spirit, there, oh, yes, in the abiding where
mind but nothing else abides, the eternal,

until it turns into another pear or sunfish,
that momentary glint in the fisheye having

been there so long, coming and going,
it’s eternity’s glint: it all wraps back round,

into and out of form, palpable and impalpable,
and in one phase, the one of grief and love,

we know the other, where everlastingness
comes to sway, okay and smooth: the heaven we mostly

want, though, is this jet-hoveled hell back,
heaven’s daunting asshole: one must write and

rewrite till one writes it right: if I’m in
touch, she said, then I’ve got an edge: what

the hell kind of talk is that: I can’t believe
I’m merely an old person: whose mother is dead,

whose father is gone and many of whose friends
and associates have wended away to the

ground, which is only heavy wind, or to ashes,
a lighter breeze:  but it was all quite frankly

to be expected and not looked forward to:  even
old trees, I remember some of them, where they

used to stand: pictures taken by some of them:
and old old dogs, specially one imperial black one,

quad dogs with their hierarchies (another archie)
one succeeding another, the barking and romping

sliding away like slides from a projector: what
were they then that are what they are now:

The book-length poem ‘Garbage’ was published in 1993
and won the National Book Award for poetry 

1 thought on “earthweal weekly challenge: ANTHROPOCENE WILDERNESS

  1. The links between our genetic history with schizophrenia, autism and alcoholism caught my attention. Gah. The wild brain seems to be spreading across the globe in response to an unbearable amount of horror. That is one amazing poem. This challenge offers great scope!


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