• jayastenquist

Reimagining Environmental Writing-- a workshop!!

I've been excitedly planning a three session long workshop with the Three Rivers Park District in conjunction with my current poetry project on species loss and animality. Registration opens September 1st and can be done here.

Despite the fact that we all interact with the natural world, "environmental writing" has become synonymous with a very specific experience. As we enter a period of intense climate crisis and environmental collapse, the homogeny of how we define environmental writing and who has access to the genre, threatens our ability to document and understand the experience of being human.

Not only does it erase non-human worlds, it erases human identities and experiences. The way we imagine nature--and the way we have exploited it--depends on a hierarchy of value just as our social structures depend on hierarchies and oppression.

How can we interrogate conceptions of "wildness" and "nature" to be not simply inclusive, but representative of our experiences? How do we challenge systems of power that have made "environmental writing" so inaccessible? Why has that inaccessibility been so often reinforced?

Until I started my current project, I never imagined myself as an "environmental writer." Among other things, I saw so many of the canonical literary environmental writers seem totally uninterested in human experiences other than their own, even as they so compassionately contemplated a sand hill crane and mourned their diminishing numbers. It did not seem possible to both hold the traumas within the non-human and human world-- but in the process of researching and writing this book on what it means to be "animal" I realized how totally idiotic I was being. When the taxonomy we take as absolute truth to describe the "animal kingdom" was first developed, many human beings were given animal status. The fact that today we only allow certain people to write about the natural world is a totally logical extension of those ideas. If we want to change this we have to--and we get to-- step back and reimagine the very idea of what it means to use human consciousness to explore what is not human, what is wild, what is nature, and what is "environmental." What fun! What a necessary task at time of so many necessary tasks. As Joseph Campbell said, "if you want to change the world, you have to change the metaphor."

The workshop is meant to be the beginning of these conversations, collaborations, and art works. We'll read some brilliant work by writers who have been thinking about these ideas for years, talk about it, write from some prompts, and have some workshops under the Macando Compassionate Code of Conduct model. All genres welcome! There is a small fee ($25) associated with the series, if this is inaccessible for you please contact me directly and we will figure out how to get you in the workshop. If you cannot physically attend but would like access to reading materials and discussion prompts please also reach out to me.


location: Silverwood Park (we'll meet outside, socially distanced, with masks)

dates: Monday 9/14, Monday 9/21, Monday 9/28

time: 6-7 pm


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