Water, activism and visible poetry: Thoughts while underway

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Low tide in the Cordero Islands, BC

Around each corner, in each encounter, is the potential for surprise, magic, time travel, fantastical possibility.

I was thinking–was it yesterday or the day before, or perhaps just at the lip of the forest in the Cordero Islands (I remember stepping up onto moss, across a gap, beneath a tree)–about how strange it is that so much of North American fiction, when set here, forbids the mixing of dream, myth and memory as we live them, the recovery of the world as a magical, weirdly mixed and animate place.  “Magical realism” we call it, as if it’s not real.  Tea Obreht’s novel The Tiger’s Wife can mix memory and story, literature (The Jungle Book) and postwar medicine because it is set “elsewhere,” in a place that has become mythical because it no longer exists: the former Yugoslavia with all of its feuds, friendships, modernities and strange medievalisms, its interweaving of East and West, Christian and Muslim, small town and science.  But isn’t being in the world always like this if we are well, psychologically speaking? Around each corner, in each encounter, is the potential for surprise, magic, time travel, fantastical possibility.  Why do we take an orientation towards the catastrophic, above all, as ‘realist?’

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Cordero Channel, BC, June 2017

Why do we take an orientation towards the catastrophic, above all, as ‘realist?’

Somehow, I think mediated urban life, where everyone lives in little boxes, manipulating their little internet-connected boxes, contributes to this idea that the magical is imaginary, elsewhere. For every forest is full of marvels and miracles and interspecies relationships, possibilities and surprises. Every space where you walk and breathe thus imprints itself upon you, enters you and changes you in some way.

 

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Spirit Lake, Graham Island, Haida Gwaii, July 2017

Every space where you walk and breathe imprints itself upon you, enters you and changes you in some way

In this environment, could I imagine or identify a poetic or musing state of mind with activism? Could inviting others to slow down, to enter altered states of being via slow media, engage them in thinking about or changing some of the ways they interact with the world? Could it help to shoehorn them out into other less virtual relationships with the physical, sensual world? Could they, in this way, tune their hearing towards what philosopher Alphonso Lingis, in The Community of those who have nothing in common, calls “the murmur of the world?”

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Raindrops on a deck prism

Could we imagine or identify a poetic or musing state of mind with activism?

Poetry, especially lyric poetry, is an art of noticing details, of intimate observation. So is sailing. So, often enough, is walking or photographing. You stop; stay still; watch; what you see marks you, remakes you.  Or as the science fiction writer Octavia Butler put it, in her Parable of the Sower: “All that you touch/ you change./  All that you change /changes you.”  Such thinking could describe the states and flows of that substance we call water; it could describe the contagion of ideas, the hopes of activism, and the terms of relationship.

Let’s not call those portals through which we slip into altered states of engagement with others, human and non-human, unreal. Our future in this world may depend upon such co-identifications, such synergies, flows and imaginings. What happens when we think of our very porosity–and not just our resistances–as a potential for activism? How may we imagine unleashing creative forces according to logics other than the (il)logic of war?

 

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Smoke in Johnstone Strait, BC August 2017

What happens when we think of our very porosity–and not just our resistances–as a potential for activism? How may we imagine unleashing creative forces according to logics other than the (il)logic of war?

First written Friday 7 August 2015  anchored in Gorge Harbour, Cortes Island; first published here: https://givenwater.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/water-activism-and-visible-poetry/

All pictures are taken from my Instagram feed (@karinmariecope) from the summer of 2017.

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