Ecopoetics Along Shorelines


Reading alongside Luis J. Rodriguez’s The Concrete River

April 8, 2019

This year we’re having students do most of their work outside of this site, but we’ll share some prompts and resources here.


In “An inventory of loss on the Los Angeles River” Robert “Bear” Guerra photographs and annotates collections of species from the Western Foundation for Vertebrate Zoology and the LA County Natural History Museum, species which are now locally extirpated or extinct. Check out the photos in High Country News.

This week in class, we’re reading Esther G. Kim’s “Bring on the Yuppies and the Guppies! Green Gentrification, Environmental Justice, and the Politics of Place in Frogtown, L.A.”, published in Just Green Enough.

Also the author of an amazing dissertation on the L. A. River’s environmental politics, Esther shares the following sources on the river’s contemporary and historical dimensions:

Works looking at LA River restoration as environmental regulation in the form of ecological modernization:
Browne and Keil, 2000, Planning Ecology: The Discourse of Environmental Policy Making in Los Angeles, Organization & Environment;
Desfor and Keil, 2000, Every River Tells a Story: The Don River and the Los Angeles River as Articulating Landscapes, Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning;
Gandy, 2014, The Fabric of Space: Water, Modernity, and the Urban Imagination (has a chapter on the L.A. River);
Desfor and Keil, 2004, Nature and the City: Making Environmental Policy in Toronto and Los Angeles (has several sections on the L.A. River).
Master’s Theses Works:
Emily Marsh, “A Concrete Reality: Spatial Justice and the Los Angeles River”, MSc for Department of Geography at London School of Economics and Political Science. August 2012;
John Arroyo, “Culture in Concrete: Art and the Re-imagination of the Los Angeles River as Civic Space”, Master in Urban Planning for MIT, 2010.
Historical Takes on River, Water, and Race:
Torres-Rouff, 2006, Water Use, Ethnic Conflict, and Infrastructure in Nineteenth-Century Los Angeles, Pacific Historical Review;
Deverell, W. 2004. Whitewashed Adobe: The Rise of Los Angeles and the Remaking of Its Mexican Past. (Chapter 3 “Remembering a River”);
Valle and Torres, 2000, Latino Metropolis, Chapter Five “Significant Space: Public Areas in the Greater Eastside” (this is more about Whittier Narrows, which connects the San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers).
Parks and EJ:
Kibel, 2004, Los Angeles’ Cornfield: An Old Blueprint for New Greenspace, Stanford Environmental Law Journal.
Barnett, 2001, The Chinatown Cornfields: Including Environmental Benefits in Environmental Justice Struggles, Critical Planning.
Carter, 2016, Environmental Justice 2.0: New Latino Environmentalism in Los Angeles, Local Environment. (covers LA River in certain areas of article).
Hopefully this should be good enough. If you’re looking for non-academic work, there is also a lot of stuff produced by The City Project on parks, EJ, and the LA River, as well as writing by Jenny Price.

June 1, 2018
Julie Ann

Secondary Questions 5/30

What definition of ecopoetics resonates with you? (with p11 as 5 different definitions)

#1,2,4,5 pointing at the same experience/activity

belonging as dispersal of ego centered agency…belonging as relation

can’t have one strategy without the others

zone of overlap but zones of opposite effect

a diversity of strategies the might contradict

#4 as scientific or poetic or artistic

#5 as interdisciplinarity

What other clues do we have about what makes this ecological poetics?

turbulent flow of poetry

Is there something here that is ecopoetics…goes against ecopoetics?

Initials…claiming each poem

Is agency ego based?

When do they (FP and JK) resonate with various authors?


5/16 TRACKING OPENING QUESTION: Breeching Sovereignty 

June 1, 2018

How can we trace sovereignty through this book (Messages from Franks Landing)?

  • From an imperialist legal/governmental perspective
    • Treaty history
      • refusing to address treaties in Salish: immediate disrespect and reduction of complexity.
      • Using treaties as tools to prevent the costs of war
      • Manifest Destiny
    • Timber harvests, clogging of gravel so salmon don’t have an ecologically sound place to lay eggs
    • Decisions made within the framework of U.S laws were inherently not for Native sovereignty
  • From a Native response perspective
    • Resistance
    • Evolution of communication: choosing of words
      • “Usual and accustomed ground” p. 12
    • expectation of Native assimilation was pushed back upon because of the high regard in which Natives held sovereignty of culture.
    • Response by native people to study indigenous law and become lawyers.
      • Building of hatchery to offset the impact of the dam
      • Moment of the tribe taking something back as an exercise of sovereignty



June 1, 2018

WHY might Rodriguez blur the lines of “edges”?

  • There are so many boundaries: socially, politically, environmentally
  • Many barriers to entry to white societies: physically & imaginatively

HOW does Rodriguez use language to depict the spaces in between boundaries?

  • “The police and the policed”
  • “Alien authority”

HOW does the River sound? HOW is it painted in words?

  • SET-UP
  • but ETERNAL

HOW does Anzaldúa think about boundaries and edges?

  • In-translatable
    • Using words as boundaries
  • Rooted in language/culture
    • Preserved by…
    • Reclaimed by…

May 31, 2018

Tracking “Other Texts” 5/30/18

Expressive Arts Therapy –

Ananzi the Spider –

Spider Webs –

Nasa Esoteric Research on drug effects using Spider Webs –

Gaia Hypothesis –

Etymology of Eco –

See Saws –

Fern Gully –

Exquisite Corpse –

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino –

Alwin Nikolai’s Tensile Involvement –

Newton’s Laws of Gravity –

Einsteins Theory of Relativity –

May 29, 2018

The first way that “I” is under pressure is that the book is written by two poets. Oscillating between voices with only small initials to indicate ownership, my eyes slip between the stanzas of one voice to the other. I’m unsure where one poem begins and the other ends and whose poem is whose. The “I” also slips through time. It dilates from a single lifetime to moments, seasons and eons. Presumably, each voice of a different age with different interests at each moment. The “I” is nomadic, moving countries and ecosystems. I cannot locate my self. I’m unfixed.

May 29, 2018

By fighting for their fishing rights, those in the native community at Frank’s Landing were protecting their culture. In seeing the footage of the family fishing from their canoes it seems ridiculous that they were ever forced to stop. Clearly, their fishing was not the cause of the salmon decline. The treaty rights are a legal foothold for the protection of vital resources and, thanks to the Boldt decision, a meaningful one. That victory was won by the consistent resistance to the unjust laws through physical disobedience and sacrifice. The work of justice is the work of our bodies.

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