Sunday, July 8, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's Part 31 (Jonathan Skinner)

Ecopoetics
Skinner, Jonathan
Ecopoetics

Now this is a rarity. It's a copy of Jonathan Skinner's dissertation, of which only a few copies exist. Jonathan gave me a copy after he'd graduated, saying he would only give it to me if I promised to read it, which I did.

I thought that I had already talked about how Jonathan and I met, but if I did I cannot find that post. One thing that is a little odd is that our meeting began with a book that I am almost certain I still own, yet have not written about on the blog despite having long passed that letter in the alphabet.

It's a book of poems by a very obscure Venezuelan poet named Juan Martín Echeverría. When I returned from Ecuador in 1995 I started immediately practicing my translation skills to make sure that my Spanish didn't go rusty. I found it at Seventh St. Books in New York. I think it cost a dollar. It was written in plain, direct language and was fairly easy to translate. I translated the whole thing at my job as a temp at Hyperion Books over the course of about two weeks.

I brought the poems to read at a translation open mic organized by Dan Machlin at the Segue Foundation. Jonathan and his wife Isabelle also attended the reading and read from some of their own translations. This was also the first time I met Eleni Sikelianos and Laird Hunt.

After the reading, Isabelle approached and told me she liked the poems and said she'd like to see the them in the original Spanish. I had a copy of the book with me and handed it to her, saying, "Just make sure to give it back, it's the only copy I have, and possibly the only one in North America, as his work is not known at all."

She promised to do so and took the poems with her.

A month or two later I got a call from Jonathan telling me that they were moving to New Mexico and could we meet up at the next Segue reading so he could return the book to me. We agreed to meet there, but it turned out that the reading was canceled. Off they went to NM and I didn't think I would ever see them or my book again.

Fast forward almost two years to the summer of 1998. I had moved to Buffalo and was living in an apartment on College St. My phone rang. It was Jonathan.

He asked if I remembered him. I said I did and by the way did he still have my book!

He said he would look for it and by the way he was moving to Buffalo and could he stay in my apartment while he looked for a place to live.

I said of course and before long he moved in to the apartment below me.

We became de facto roommates for the next year until Isabelle also arrived and they moved into an apartment on Huntington Avenue.

from Ecopoetics

"Eco" here signals–no more, no less–the house we share with several million other species, our planet earth. "Poetics" is used as poesis or making, not necessarily to emphasize the critical over the creative act (nor vice versa). Thus: ecopoetics, a house making.


ecopoetics is also conceived as a sort mcu or "mobile contamination unit" (thanks to mycologist Paul Stamets for the term), cutting across divisions of labor, crossing and acknowledging linguistic, cultural and species borders.


Put ecopoetics in your pocket, and lace up your walking shoes.