Mary Cresswell reviews Ecozoa by Helen Moore

Helen Moore, Ecozoa. Hampshire, UK: Permanent Publications, 2015. 9781856232272 p/b.

 

Mary Cresswell

 

“May Gaia, our Great Mother, speak through me … may I be a channel, a conduit for Nature’s words!” calls Helen Moore at the beginning of her blog.  Ecozoa, her second poetry collection, speaks to this call.

The book’s very title directs us to a variety of meaning. It links to the Ecozoic era named by Thomas Berry, an age of consciousness expanded beyond the human-only focus we suffer under today. It links to the Four Zoas of visionary William Blake and the desperate “Howl” of Allen Ginsberg. It links to a combination of “eco” and “zoa” (animals), perhaps the next step in our evolution from the original protozoa. Or is Ecozoa the brave new world of our vision?

The contents are intense and passionate.  Moore has published a manifesto giving her views on ecopoetry, which you can read by scrolling down the first page of her blog to the International Times link. I think this collection needs to be read in this context. In particular, we need to note her looking at ecopoetry under four categories, although these are not labelled as the same categories used this book.

In the poetry, she names her sections after Blake’s zoas – Tharmas, Urizen, Urthona, and Luvah; in her prose manifesto, the categories are witness, resistance, reconnection, and vision. Within the poetry, the boundaries shift and merge, and immutable labels simply aren’t possible. Her categories might be expressed as a progression, perhaps to a higher consciousness, but they might also be seen as coexistent and conterminous, but forever keeping an eye on their boundaries.

Moore gives us poems of witness. We have “apples are not the only gadgets”, beginning:

jaguar is not a big cat of the Panthera genus, the threatened

feline of the Americas, but a high-performance engine,

exhaust notes a snarl, an iconic car, a vision for our future    (6)

“A History of the British Empire in a Single Object” is a vivid three-page riff on a collapsible Victorian rocking chair, and this is shortly followed by a “Cabinet of Curiosities” containing:

Exhibit A

Moral compass, 21st century, made in Taiwan …

 

Exhibit B

High horse, old grey nag, not what she used to be …

 

Exhibit C

Pearl of wisdom, 4mm diameter, opaque …    (24)

 

 There is resistance, indirect and direct, and we are physically present at one protest:

 It’s mud from our boots with which

we smear the cubicles inside the van

where we’re detained like grubs

within the pantry cells of larger prey  (9)

We also see the possibility of  reconnection:

 Plantain pushing through tarmac

Self-heal         insurgent mauve in lawns

she being powerful and mysterious says

with Maria with Anne we find the ancient tracks   (46)

Like Blake and like Ginsberg, Moore is a poet of vision. Her passion is already in the first poem of the book:

… In whatever mortal span

that remains, help me to navigate

 

this crisis in our evolution, to stay

with what others have begun

 

millions of cells rising

in and for our life-source, Earth

 

willing Ecozoa’s birth.    (4)

 

The final section, Luvah, really ought to have its own discussion to examine how it looks forward from the perspective of the feminine. Briefly, it addresses personas such as the soul midwife, Aphrodite, Gaia, Noah’s girl, and much of its imagery centres on the female body. There is a vision, and it is a vision of light, not of despair. Moore plays with found graffiti, naming her poem “Love is Metaphysical Gravity” and starting:

Down the side of the hairdresser’s, this e-generation

graffito – spontaneous scrawl of exuberance,

 

new consciousness indigo child/late

love-child of baby boomers, a rebel angel,

 

free thinker who’s done drugs to peel

layers of conditioning from his/her mind;

 

also a free lover in the sense of life’s erotic

potential, the faith in love as the highest force

 

for good – not just (or even) God,

but the divine in all of us; …   (66)

 

The blurb quotes John Kinsella’s description of this collection as “a milestone in the journey of ecopoetics” – and I very much agree.

 

Mary Cresswell is from Los Angeles and lives on New Zealand’s Kapiti Coast. She is a retired science editor. Her collection of ghazals and glosas, Fish Stories, was published by Canterbury University Press in 2015.

See also: http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writers/cresswellmary.html

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