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.

Field Writing Samples (100’s)

June 5, 2018

“I’m eight years old again and I find a little eel in a tidepool on the beach of Orcas Island – I name it Eely and my parents let me keep it in a bowl outside our house. It’s hot out and I tell my grandpa to change the water while I’m gone. Eely dies. I cry. I tell my grandpa, “It’s all your fault!” My parents console me. We put Eely in the water and they swear that they saw him swim away. How cruel am I to capture a living thing and then mourn the loss of its life.”

“I try to remember what it felt like that day but it feels so distant now. Here, with aluminum beneath my fingers, I wonder how I had never noticed it before. Iterations – backspace, right-click, synonyms, backspace. Four years under this roof and now the two items in my bag are a laptop and a cell phone. I want so badly for the sound of keys to be replaced by the crashing of waves; for the carpet to turn to sand; for the brick walls to open up and let in a crisp, salty breeze. I switch to pen and paper.”

“I look down and the only monster I see is me. “All eukaryotic life is monstrous” – is it? Maybe. I ask you but you don’t answer. I kick my feet over the concrete edge and let them dangle below me. A woman stares back at me – distorted by your vibrant ebb and flow and tinted by oil collecting on your surface. Below your surface I see bottles, tires, cement blocks, a bike. Unabashed, you mirror and move with an energy like I’ve never seen. After all I’ve done to hurt you, you still dance at the sight of my face.”

“If you were an animal, you’d be this one – wide-eyed, brilliant, capable of brightening anyone’s day with a single wave. You’d be this one… or maybe the one in the aquarium that we’d visit every year. You remember the one, right? You nod and I wonder if you’re lying.  We’d visit her while grandpa was at work. I’d say “octopus moving” and you’d laugh with the most angelic laugh I’ve ever heard. If you were an animal, you’d be this one – witty and curious, intelligent and fascinating – dare I go on lest I risk adopting this octopus as my grandmother?”

“I come to this place in search of a remedy, or maybe just a chapel. I want to lay here until the tide rises and the healing rhythm of the Sound washes over me, let Her blanket drown me and with my body, my sins. If I bathe in Her holy water, will the Sound absolve me?

I want to plunge into the clear, cold bay, say three Hail Mary’s, plug my nose, and run off of the dock, descending past walls of technicolor life, waving outstretched arms to me as I pass, as if to say, you are forgiven.”

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 30, 2018

If “I” should always be under pressure, it is the pressure of being part of something much greater, of being under the supernatural weight of a wholly undetermined future. Below us is not only a collection of carbon and time and pressure, but also the narrative of how that past is told. Unless we are miners digging into the earth we have no access to the past, but we do as poets or writers mining and augmenting the narrative of “our” past. WE are under the pressure of narrative, I must act as witness and messenger of my own narrative.

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