Summer 2023 • Vol. XLV No. 1 Nonfiction |

A Flower that Refuses to Open: Toward a Decadent Ecopoetics

A specter is stalking ecopoetics — it is the specter of Decadence.  To be sure, “decadence” is an almost exclusively pejorative term in Anglo-American poetics. From the point of view of commonly taught anthologies, Decadent poets remain an oddity-obsessed, benighted array of outliers located firmly in their fin de siècle, one hundred years in the past, a bizarre, provincial rut on the broad road to metropolitan Modernism.  Yet the abjection of Decadence is instructive. Its proscription amid the compulsive positivism and careerism of contemporary American poetry leaves us at a loss for a poetry that can be equal to our annihilative moment, a moment founded on conquest, genocide, and enslavement and defined by extinction, loss, and death. But Decadence, as its name suggests, provides us with an aesthetics that is almost forensic in its interest in decay and death. With its surprising yet apropos inversions — who can forget the conversations with lice a

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Photo of Joyelle Mcsweeney

Joyelle McSweeney is the author of ten books in various genres, most recently The Necropastoral, a critical work on Decadent ecopoetics, in the University of Michigan Poets on Poetry Series, and Toxicon and Arachne (Nightboat, 2020), a poetry collection for which she won an Academy of Arts and Letters Literature Award, the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, and a 2022 Guggenheim Fellowship. She is a founding editor of the international press Action Books and teaches at Notre Dame.

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A specter is stalking ecopoetics — it is the specter of Decadence.  To be sure, “decadence” is an almost exclusively pejorative term in Anglo-American poetics. From the point of view of commonly […]

juxtaposition with winter

By b ferguson

A specter is stalking ecopoetics — it is the specter of Decadence.  To be sure, “decadence” is an almost exclusively pejorative term in Anglo-American poetics. From the point of view of commonly […]

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