Poetry, Animals and the Imaginative Ethnographies of Creaturely Lives
In conversation with recent work on post-humanism and theorizations of the “more-than-human” world, I explore the capacities of literature, and especially contemporary poetry, to function as a sort of imaginative ethnography. Considering selected poems by US authors as a mode of “multispecies ethnography,” I draw on anthropological debates about ways of knowing more-than-human worlds, and the challenges of articulating that (necessarily anthropocentric) speculative knowledge. I argue that poetry, with its emphasis on condensation and multi-layered semiotics, along with its affective dimensions built through craft tools of sound, image, rhythm and line breaks, can function as a form of transpecies imaginative translation. It may even cultivate empathy, ultimately building toward change in human-animal relations in the world, through acts of writing and interpretation that imaginatively translate across the species divides, articulating shared human and more-than-human worlds.
Copyright (c) 2023 The Author(s)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
RSAJournal applies a CC BY-NC-ND license to all its contributions. This license enables reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. CC BY-NC-ND includes the following elements:
- BY: credit must be given to the creator.
- NC: Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted.
- ND: No derivatives or adaptations of the work are permitted.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain the copyright and full publishing rights for their submissions to the journal.
- Authors grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License that allows others to share unedited work for non-commercial purposes with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.