Reviewed: DEVOURING THE GREEN: : fear of a human planet: a cyborg / eco poetry anthology Edited by Sam Witt Published by Jaded Ibis Press
Devouring the Green calls for the death of the “human” in the heat of the Anthropocene. Before anyone calls into question the eradicative nature of this request, ask yourself this: Is human presence on earth invasive?
If no, how many animals, vegetables, or minerals do we have to kill before the answer is yes?
If yes, how do we transcend our humanity enough to find ourselves one with the biology that created us?
The reproductive power of plants and animals alone supersede the human fabrication of power. Our species particularly refuses to embrace the fact that “we” are finite. We’re simultaneously dedicated to preserving the sanctity of the human race and poisoning every legitimate resource around us all for the sake of systematic constructions.
Editor Sam Witt quietly introduces an overarching ache of miscommunication between human and non-human present throughout Devouring the Green with an essay titled “The Nightingale Program Is Corrupted: Against the “Human.” While John Keats cries to the nightingale, the nightingale cries for their own existence. Together, the songs intertwine, a melody of coming-death for Keats and the bird, each subject to ecosystems bent on eating them alive.
The scalding future is here — Singularity is edging closer, symbolising both our merge with artificial intelligence and a rapidly-increasing list of extinct plants and animals. Witt asks us to look inside ourselves, face death, and discover the difference between Homo sapien and human in the 21st century.
“I don’t own all of this.
Does anyone? I long
but couldn’t bear it.”
writes Simeon Berry.
The human condition is to long for what we can’t have; what we shouldn’t have; what we have and misuse. But can we get away with killing our destructive longing without losing our ‘selves’ in the process? We contemplate our own death. In the meantime green grass turns brown, shrivels, and dies.
In “My Children Marvel at the Word Green” Kerry Shawn Keys tells their kids that
“green is a God and endlessly echoes itself in a dirge. . .dirge means green.”
Death is green. Nonexistent existence is green. Catherine Wagner asks us to consume our selves in the pursuit of green. Bacon becomes chemical weaponry, mirroring the toxicity at which our bodies operate on a daily basis. We think the pigs don’t know they’re sick before we eat them.
But in “//Open Letter to a Robot” Mandy Keifetz writes a world in which even the computers want to experience the rate at which we’re killing ourselves firsthand. The robot dumps its operator, saying,“I think I need sweat now, and phenomenology.”
“Protest Poem” by Cecilia LLompart remembers those we’ve already lost to to the toxic bacon; the green grip of consumerist capitalist culture; “The headlock of enchantment” that is our businessparents buried in their working suits.
In a future-world where body parts are more parts than body, Devouring the Green sees us as multi-tools in a denser atmosphere of executing pursuits for “Absolute schema” (as described by Tim Jones-Yelvington). Each poet throughout the anthology wants to imagine oppression controlled by a very “other” entity or series of entities, more present and pulsing than ever before — as if our ability to quantify data indefinitely will, at the very least, allow us to clearly isolate ourselves from those who hurt us. When we transcend ourselves, oppression will still exist. It will exist on every plane. Can we ever build a reality in which we actually absolutely save ourselves?
“. . .We believe that no one will rescue us
but that someone will rescue us. . .”
writes Carol Ciavonne in “Statement of Belief.”
Devouring the Green creates oil slick smoke stack vocabulary surrounding a dying forest; a dying fish; a dying breed of human. Continually we are asked to reevaluate who will save us and what that salvation looks like. Daniel Borzutzky imagines salvation will come as we watch our own flesh dissolve into lightness, erasing lines between “dying” and “living,” we will eventually burn into our own undead sacrifice.
Rebecca Ariel Porte edited the reiterated texts of Aristotle and William James from the voice of a bot named Sylvie. Carina Finn wrote poems using emojis and Stephanie Berger worked in tandem to translate them into English.
In whole, “Devouring the Green” poets feed heavily on digital language (ours and otherwise) to communicate. It effectively reminds us that we are the “other” that’s hurting us. We make the data — becoming it won’t solve the inherent issues of our existence. “Who’s warming who,” asks Esther Lee in “Seconds of Needless Animal Terror: (part elegy, part exorcism, part data-driven aberrations).”
“. . .and it’ll get as tight as inside the concept of a point that is when
dimensions no longer exist
and it’ll be as hot and as bright as it can be
and it’ll try to get still hotter and brighter
and then a great release will take place
and everyone will give a big sigh
and everything will start over again as if it had never happened” writes Yuriy Tarnawsky.
If we have anything to do with it, we’ll keep iterating ourselves in “less invasive” formats. But we are the ultimate harm. Soon, the nightingale will be dead. We can transcend, and transcend, and transcend, but we have to stop doing it at the expense of our topography and the beings that share it with us. Devouring the Green asks us to swallow our own existence whole, like a snake eating its tail for the very last time.
Rainé Rainé is a white nonbinary trans drag queen assigned female at birth living in Savannah, GA in The House of GUNT. They are a contributor for Polyester Magazine and WUSSY. You can learn more about them at raineblunk.com or visit them at QuoLab.