“The hybrid I”: a more natural convergence of ‘I’s to form a ‘we’, instead of a ‘genial synthesis of diversely authoritative approaches’?
Throughout Redstart, ‘I’ is sometimes an unreliable narrator. In “I went out this evening with my daughter, who has a pressure in her head and needed the quiet of the river” (59), I is genuine, though still in conflict: “I said, it’s about the light, Katherine…” implying disagreement in perspective. Other times, removal of ‘I’ empowers the reader to see differently… through “eyes of the world”?
Can this poetry ‘provide incommensurable forms of insight’ because ‘I’ can be imagined?
As I read the poems, they often seemed to be continuations from one to the next. Each author picking up the thread of the previous writing and carrying forward, sometimes in a similar, often in a different direction. The email exchanges at the end of the book made me think about them as more of a call and response dialogue. The I is under pressure then because it is beholden to what comes not only before it, but also after it. In the back of the author’s mind, is there a thought toward the future and what will happen next?
In Redstart, I noticed the “I” being put under the pressure in Kinsella’s “A Note on Ecopoetics” (pg 37). He notes that poets and poetry work within an ecology, and that ecology, as opposed to environment, is, by nature, communal. He refers to his collaboration with Gander, and as a poet in general, as “a way of challenging the security of self-affirmation.” Often in writing it is easy to be self-important, but he suggests that when working in this sort of collaboration the endgame is not self-oriented, but rather a potentially redemptive contribution to an (infinitely?) larger body of work.
To put pressure on the ‘I’ is to put pressure on this recurring theme of selfishness. As I read Redstart, I’m given this sense of smoothness to the language but pressure registering as guilt for my nature, my selfishness. Short phrases, lots of commas, high density. Its appears strategically composed to put pressure into the mind, to scare up a sense of urgency. Page 49, short phrases no more than three words. Pressuring through description, ‘intensifies,’ ‘blazing,’ ‘blinding,’ ‘irreproducible.’ The author clearly had an intention with linguistic choice, put pressure through the action of reading, through the medium of structure.
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.
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.
Redstart begins with a critique of whiteness in capitalism and proposes putting pressure on the “I.” This approach affects the rest of the book in that Gander and Kinsella interrogate meanings of the self and focus on non-human animals. They also build upon the idea that “‘I’ is multiple,” and thus interrogating the foundations of Western ideology (12). (The book refuses to completely detach from Western ideology, as it says Chinese poetry cannot be ecopoetics because of Western society’s view of Chinese politics (15)). The “I” and “self” appear consistently, always contextualized in multiplicity: “I walk / my breath one / rhythm among / others” (56).