Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Web Paper Event # 4

hirakismail's picture

Hira Ismail


Final Web Paper # 4


            In lieu of a traditional research essay, I decided to write a collection of six poems, inspired by the site-sit project we all participated in. This semester, we spent a lot of time reading theories about representation. Which forms of writing are more ecological, which forms don't represent the environment satisfactorily, even hurt it further, was discussed. The representations of environmental reading themselves (besides our own) were at a minimum, and poems almost nonexistent. I wanted to bring in the category of poetry for further analysis. In my previous paper, I explored Gary Snyder's idea behind poetry and what is should contain. He discouraged idyllic poetry, and instead wanted poetry to cover nature's dire qualities. His exploration of the very form of poetry as wild was something I didn't explore in my last project, which was an attempt to find Snyder's desired qualities in bi-cultural poetry. This time, I attempt to create poetry which approaches Snyder's call for a more “wild” poetry. I write while attempting to keep poetry as an ecological form in mind. Is it ecological? How can different styles of poetry reflect nature as “wild?”

            The vein of this project is to attempt to represent the activities of the class this semester in the form of poetry. We have all been assigned a site-sit project this semester, the location of which we were permitted and encouraged to choose. In order to represent the entire class effort, my project proposal was to visit some of my classmate's site-sits and use these visitations to kickstart into a poem or several poems. I try to use the category of hybrid poetry as I understand it from a Creative Writing class I took here, Poetry II, which concentrated on experimental poetry. After the posted poems, I attempt an explanation at the writing process, and how that led to characterizing it as wild.







                        sheer                every rainstorm                       shuddering                                          leaves

                                                is Sandy


                                    trunks              black


branches                                                                      mess                punishing         dangling



                        moving                        more                like                  sparkle                         spotted















We make, create, compensate                                                                         And the earth laughs





















I find it                                                            calming





I find ease in these



splintered skies these


ridden roofs these

shaded windows


Fog like my                                                                                         blurred blaring stormed eyes


it speaks so differently

it waits

it listens

it doesn't destroy

it settles


Fog                                                                                          thin-edged       crumbling



draping            trundling                                                        



                                                            cloaking           trembling


















Wouldn't you just die if your baby died?


I look now at a smiling photo of




two perfect apple cheeks


slightly red in all the right places


collar slightly askew


only slightly older


than those who died today.


He's standing in front of a tree


eyes sparkling.


Who's to blame?


If I don't seek comfort in trees, plants, animals, these proofs of God


where is it to be found?



In the unfathomable mind




someone my age,


holding a gun,


crashing through a school


unleashing unspeakable?


unbridled wild



It makes no sense


Nothing makes sense



What's left to do but sit quietly


on a branch


look out at the sky

the trees, the hills



and scream





they listen, at least




















            To begin with, I did not want to number the poems. I put enough spacing in between to hopefully make it easy to differentiate where one ended and the other began. In writing these poems, I thought heavily about hybridity. I wanted to see what would lead to a more open form. While writing, I decided that poems written with the words standing alone, with space between them, would be compelling. The space around each word gives the reader time to consider each word for its own merit. Each has its own place in the space. Poem 1 was very much written this way. While spending time in Sruthi’s later site sit, near the athletic fields and labyrinth, I wrote down words that came as observations in a notebook. I examined the trees, the branches, the dirt, the sky. Later, I wrote pieces of these observations on post-it notes and tore them into individual words, save for one phrase that I wanted to keep together (every rainstorm is Sandy). I scattered them, started rearranging in a way that felt right. I saw so much in my time at the tree, took so much in all at once, that this scattering seemed appropriate to representing how many different details I observed. Transferring the shape the pieces finally took to the word document was difficult; it could not be quite exact. The representation itself had to be diffracted. Attached is a picture of how it originally looked in the shaping. The last two lines were a commentary on the idea of representation (and this particular one too), how small it is in comparison to the earth and its majestic functions. The shape the poem took and the many, many ways it can be read were an attempt to capture the multiple ways this tree and the many views it provided could be taken in. The hybridity of the poem comes from the ever-changing ways and directions can be read, and the variant meanings the words can take when read in clusters. I imagined the words acting like the green markings on the tree I examined.

            Poem 2 was a more structured experiment; any spacing happened on the word document itself. While walking the labyrinth, instead of concentrating on the grass and ground around me, I was caught up with the sky and the immense coating of fog over everything. It was the foregrounded part of the entire landscape for me and overtook my senses. The poem is structured to show how the fog clustered in some spaces and spread thin in others during my walk in the labyrinth. It’s meant to show the cloud it formed over the landscape and over my thoughts. Also by this point, I was frustrated by the idea of trying to find the wild. In looking too hard, I was turning the smallest of details into large ones that became unnecessarily “wild.” I was finding myself exaggerating the nature of the landscape and its inhabitants. So I stopped trying, instead feeling frustrated by the idea that I wasn’t to find peace in the “wild.” I had barely started to form this indignation in my head. What if the eeriness of the fog wasn’t eerie at all to me? What if its turbulent nature was a comfort? So I began by talking back to Snyder, and in essence realizing that the wild fog was my idea of idyllic. It shared in my troubled thoughts.

            Which brings me to Poem 3. This mixed the personal thoughts and the landscape into one narrative. I structured this with the spacing in mind as crucial. An audio is included as an attachment, because this poem I felt needed to be conveyed through both writing and sound, as the spacing was important to how it should be read aloud. This can be considered my viewing the landscape, the environment as a place to bring the wild residing in the mind out to the world. At this point, with the Connecticut Sandy Oaks incident in mind, sitting outside was peaceful. And I had embraced it. Because in some cases, being in a place away from others, away from news about killings and other destruction, brought peace. I didn’t want to seek the wild when there was already enough of it in my head. These were my thoughts as I returned to the tree on the pathway near the labyrinth again. Its more traditional structure reflected my need to structure my thoughts.

            The actual order in which I wrote these was varied. All three of these poems in their first stages were written one after the other, it is upon revision that they began to be structured differently. For example, Poem 3 was the first poem I fully revised. Poems 1 & 2 were revised then one after the other. So I started out structured, and then broke the structure, but for the purposes of this discussion, I switched the order in posting. This was an incredibly engaging project and made me consider deeply how difficult the task of writing the wild is. I find that approaching the searching process as an experience as-I-go rather than one with a goal was more helpful. I hope to continue to work with form to see how to breathe life into representation. As for ecological writing, I felt Poems 1 and 2 were the most successful in showing the earth as I saw it in those moments—scattered.  

Web Paper Event 4.doc34 KB


hirakismail's picture

Also---Prof Dalke, am sending

Also---Prof Dalke, am sending you an email attachment of the voice recording because I can't seem to get it uploaded on Serendip :(

hirakismail's picture



The actual structure of the poems is represented in the attached word document. Posting it onto Serendip ruined the form :( Please check the attached word doc for a true evaluation, Thanks Prof Dalke!