Monday, June 6, 2022

Matthew Gwathmey : looping climate




looping climate is a series of hybrid poems that takes bits of text from The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells and loops and manipulates them along with some superimposed b&w illustrations. Quite simply, you will not be the same after you read this book about the consequences of global warming. Specific to environmental apocalypse, the literary critic Del Ivan Janik goes to D. H. Lawrence and says that he “saw man as part of an organic universe, living best by acknowledging its wonder and rejecting the temptation to force his will upon it. In this sense he stands at the beginning of the modern post-humanist tradition and of the literature of environmental consciousness” (107). These ideas are manifested abundantly today, and any text that focuses on ecocritical theory gives several contemporary examples, including: Anne Carson’s Silent Spring, Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb, and Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance. The notion of environmental crisis implies an end game, and we can now hypothesize what this complete and final destruction will look like. In tracing this view of the end of the world in his book Ecocriticism, Greg Garrard goes to what he considers the beginning: “The most influential forerunner to the modern environmental apocalypse is the “Essay on the Principle of Population” [published in 1798] by Thomas Malthus, which set out to contradict the utopian predictions of endless material and moral progress made by political philosopher William Godwin” (93). In this very long essay, two of the arguments that Malthus puts forth is that a continual increase in population cannot be sustained by limited natural resources and that economic growth does not necessarily mean human growth. So here we are in year 2021. The first section of Wallace-Wells’s book, called “Cascades,” brings up the idea of feedback loops. If x happens, then y happens. If y happens, then z happens. If z happens, that makes x worse, which in turn makes y worse, which in turn makes z worse. Etc., etc. These looping poems reflect this idea of through repetition rather than cause and effect. The superimposed b&w illustrations represent the changing environment, sometimes overtly, usually abstractly, (meaning, they probably represent nothing at all). Text is lost, incomplete, must be guessed at, must be surmised.





Matthew Gwathmey lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick, on Wolastoqey Territory, with his partner Lily and their five children. He studied creative writing at the University of Virginia and just completed his PhD at UNB. His first poetry collection, Our Latest in Folktales, was published by Brick Books in the spring of 2019.






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