Queerness, Ecopoetics and Ecopoiesis: Pt. 1 Ecopoetics

jasper avery

ecopoetics is a poetic practice(s) that attempts to mediate a relationship with the ecological

how can queerness make itself felt in this mediation?
an easy way to ask this question is as follows:
how can queerness, which is not natural, mediate a relationship within the world that is natural?

formulating queerness as non-natural seems like a reactionary and queerphobic move at first blush. this gets into familiar territory for the politically queer. Nature as a concept, serves to place a gap between humankind, often formulated as “Man” and the rest of the living world. various creatures or spirits may be allowed or denied access to the living world, but, the word serves primarily as an apparatus to demarcate where the human ends and everything else begins.
it doesn’t take Foucault to point out that queerness is or was non-existent at the time this formulation was present. here, take queerness to mean not only non-normative sexual practices but also the political/social stance of claiming these practices, along with other non-normative ones, as meaningful, valid, important &c. the heterosexual allows queerness to exist insofar as queerness warps itself to participate in normative practice. some queer actions, people or ideas may then be allowed access to the idea of Nature, but this is a conditional and mean-spirited allowance.
consider the case of the penguins roy and silo, new york’s beloved “gay penguins.” the liberal presents a case: these penguins formed a same-sex relationship and raised a child together. gayness is, therefore, perfectly Natural and shouldn’t be a problem for humans. the difference between gayness and queerness is an important one here – what of the queer penguins ? what about the penguin who forms a same-sex relationship without raising a chick, or even trying to? what about the female penguin who lays an egg and abandons it? the male penguin with no interest in relationships with penguins of any sex? the penguin who keeps three, four, five partners? what about Werner Herzog’s penguin who set a course away from the sea and walked unto death?
the allowance of queerness into Nature is performed as a social function, predicated sometimes on reproductivity, other times on utility or another value.
the queer penguin does not want to adopt an egg with their partner.
the queer penguin wants to get out of the fucking zoo.

how then can queerness write about Nature?
by deconstructing it, by removing the Nature from Nature, by allowing for the non-normativity of bodies, sex, animals, rivers, weather, and so on, by allowing for the “naturalness” of parking lots, skyscrapers, pollution, radiation, plastic, toxicity.
by flying in the face of Nature.
the first fish that was entranced by the rays of the sun, by the heat of the air, that heaved itself onto land to feel that indescribable rapture, that ascended, that perhaps died, perhaps not, gasping for air it couldn’t breathe, was queer.
the second, third, fourth fish, that jumped to their death to feel the sun, that maybe returned, or maybe did not, were queer – the yearning for a kind of life that cannot exist.
the fish learned to breathe, and here we are.
this is not meant to suggest that there is a tidy ending. the only living is through dying. death is always-already. however, queerness is (but is not only) a yearning against the laws of nature, of god, of gravity, of society. a desire that transcends. wanting something we can never have.
a queer ecopoetics then is a poetic practice that gestures towards non-normative nature, unmediated mediation. we do not want to be Natural, we want to be rivers, the sun, a bale of hay – we say yes, that skyscraper waxes and wanes like the moon, and yes, that the moon and the skyscraper should fall to earth. a queer ecopoetics asks for a body that can be anything in exchange for a body that is nothing. a queer ecopoetics answers for itself, this body, any body.


from last bodies
this machine
is a body
meant to suffer
— i’m so sorry
and i suffer
at the hands
of the graven
image so sorry
and i suffer at
the hands of
rope glue fear
and all forms
of binding so
sorry and i suffer
at the hands of
eternal time to
add and subtract
so fast so many i
could cry so
sorry and i
suffer at the
hands of all
softness and light
still i suffer the
existence of a
body in any form
how could you
imagine a body
for me im sorry
i am in a body
how could you
touch sky as
a body im sorry
how could you
create value as
a body i’m sorry
how could a
body be a job
to you i'm so
sorry and still
i suffer at
the hands of
any job any
body suffering
is a way of life
my body is a
body of suffering
how could you
make me this
way who do you
think you are
and still i'm
sorry and still i
suffer at these
hands how many
hands and always
— the act of a
body is always an
act of suffering
the act of a body
as gratitude
suffers, the act
of a body as
coldness suffers,
the act of a body
as a single
finger suffers,
and so i place
my body act
into this vessel
this sail, this
tire, this jar,
any will do,
my body act i
place it into any
vessel to rest,
i spend five days
without a body
act and suffer it
not, i press my
sufferance into
the wind for
five days before
it is pressed
back into me,
i press my
sufferance into
the sole of your
shoe and it
walks next to
me for a short
while, my body
act as a
disappearing act
my suffer as a
sprouting seed
i am so sorry
to the wind,
the shoe, the
act, i just needed
to rest a little
while, the
shortest while,
so sorry and i
carry the body
act still and
still i suffer it,
still i make no
peace as a form
of making peace
and suffer the
body and suffer
the act, so sorry.



jasper avery is a poet and writer living in Philadelphia. Her debut collection, number one earth, was the winner of the 2017 Metatron Prize, which will be published by us in 2018. A poem from this series was longlisted for the Thomas Morton Memorial Prize in Literature in 2017. she is the author of ghost medicine (gloworm press). She also has non-fiction in Real Life Mag and Melt Magazine and pursuing an MFA at Temple University.