What Sparks Poetry

Ecopoetry Now

What Sparks Poetry is a serialized feature that explores experiences and ideas that spark the writing of new poems.

In Ecopoetry Now, invited poets engage in an ecopoetic conversation across borders. In poems and poetics statements, their work describes important local differences, including bioregion and language, as well as a shared concern for the Earth. We hope to highlight poetry’s integral role in creating and sustaining a broadly ecological imagination that is most alive when biologically, culturally, and linguistically diverse.

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke on Mutualism

We Are in the World

Written in residency in Playa (Summer Lake, Oregon)

Waking, transcendent with light on lids holding dreamlife interior, first thought: remnant dream, second birdsong (how many, who is singing). After, a look at light seeping through or reflecting through branch, whether water or tree, maybe creatures there (what awaits). Within the world, with what place holds wakening, movement like wood grain, like waterway, fluid, brings abundance, peace. By now something may have formed already, in the intersections of life, of living things, how we open into life, into day, or from chronicled events from dreamworld still present from night. Realms and realms of reality present.

A swarm of butterflies drinking from cleft rock in river. Doves delight in fermented mulberries. An aspen 80,000 years old people took for forests, A member of the mint family, each flower a hairy calyx with pointed sepals, tubular corona, fifty flowers might fit on a penny, Hidden Lake bluecurls. The muskrat holds a branch above his head while swimming. Mergansers land nearby. Yesterday four sandhills, today a blue heron, a rail, phoebe, vesper sparrow, a kite. The marsh foregrounds playa lake, sedge lines banks, cattails. The mud wasp nest has additional rows each storm.

When I was small, teens taught me to sidestroke mimicking picking strawberries and bringing them to basket. Through World War II, dad said every time he saw good black earth all he could think of was garden patch place. My horses’ lean against my shoulder is all the love anyone needs in this world.

Tomorrow, hail is predicted. All the leaves are turned up, surely it will rain. The pair of English sparrows committed infanticide on the swallows’ young yesterday. A deer tick bite brings Little Deer’s revenge. Was the copperhead on the carpet last night real, or a dream? What creature gave consent to that mine, that pipeline?

Awareness of what we are part of, an element of, an organism within, is essential to knowing oneself and one’s placement. There is duty inherent to place; balance, sustenance, reciprocity, preservation, protection, beingness, belonging to or being a good guest within. Every step taken has impression. The wonder of magnitude, from dust mites to star dust all over everywhere. What is illuminating, challenging, holding instruments of knowing brings song, language, reason, purpose, poetry. Everything in every environment is relevant. The moment you think otherwise, you’ve lost clarity, consideration, contemplation, reason. You’ve lost hope.

Poetry is a measure of more at stake in knowing, considering, witnessing, being with, calling for, standing for and its reach as far as the mind and heart proclaim.

The yellow warbler’s song of nine is all the code we need to know it. The 3/6 from red-wing blackbird. If starlicide isn’t banned, millions more will fall in poisoning massacres all because they feed on sunflowers grown for wild birdseed while still in settler-colonists’ fields.

Some of us are incapable of being inattentive to this.

For decades, some of us have said, poetry is being, is breathing. We inhale everything we take in. We exhale it passing through us translating to music/language. There it is, what we know of it, and wonder.


Further Reading

Savings. Linda Hogan. Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press, 1988. 

The Book of Medicines. Linda Hogan. Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press, 1993. 

Full Moon on the Reservation. Gloria Bird. Greenfield Center, NY: Greenfield Review Press, 1993. 

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke on “For History on Behalf of My Children” by Gloria Bird. New York, NY: Poetry Society of America. 

The Wild Iris. Louise Glück. New York, NY: The Ecco Press, 1993. 

Science and Other Poems. Alison Hawthorne Deming. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1994. 

The Gingko Light. Arthur Sze. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2009. 

Black Nature. Camille Dungy, Ed.. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2009. 

Errançities. Quincy Troupe. Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press, 2012. 

Writing Prompt

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke writes, “Awareness of what we are part of, an element of, an organism within, is essential to knowing oneself and one’s placement.” What does community and belonging mean to you? Write a poem examining who you are in the world.

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Allison Hedge Coke

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke’s recent honors include a 2022-2023 UC Mellon Dean’s Professorship, the 2021-2022 California Arts Council Legacy Artist Fellowship, 2021 AWP George Garrett Award, 2021 induction into the Texas Institute of Letters, 2020 Daniel & Maggie Inouye Distinguished Chair in Democratic Ideals at the University of Hawai‘i, 2019 Fulbright in Montenegro, 2018 First Jade Female Poetry Festival Sihui China Excellent Foreign Poet, 2016 US Library of Congress Witter Bynner Fellow. Allison comes from working fields and waters, teaches for UC Riverside and has edited 10 anthologies, written a play and memoir, and written/directed 25 short films and the latest release is Look at This Blue, from Coffee House Press, 2022. Look at This Blue is Allison’s seventh book of poetry and is her love letter and call to accountability to California.