A POETRY PROJECT FOR BIRDS AND HUMANS
Welcome to spectropoetics. This poetry practice began through recurring visits to the yolo bypass: a multi-use wildlife area in the Central Valley used by naturalists, hunters, agricultural interests, and the state government. It’s beautiful land that sits at the center of the Pacific Flyway, a migrational route for many species of birds, providing them with a safe place to land during their annual journey. If you visit the bypass you can stand near thickets of hardstem tule the color of burnt sugar watching lesser yellowlegs dart their beaks into the shallow waters of flooded rice fields as the iridescent backs of ibis glisten while the setting sun reflects through side view mirrors of a frito lay truck and traffic backs up under a pink chalk moon as bats flush out of the concrete concavities of highway columns a half mile away. air thins and the geese fly in.
The more time I spent in places like this the more I began to see the land differently, and the more I questioned how humans map places, how place interacts with thought, & how both data (offered freely through apps like iNaturalist or scraped unwillingly from our devices) and stories can populate a space. There was a deep entanglement at the bypass that I had not been turning towards or surrendering to. There was a way I had been allowing borders & maps to be made for me that I should have resisted.
Engaging with ideas of bioregionalism, transcorporeality, and the indigenous thought of the Western Apache teaching that “wisdom sits in places”, I began an experiment focused on populating the Yolo Bypass with poetry whose formal structures were dependent on birdsong heard during my time there. The idea was, co-create poems with the birds at that time and location to build a landscape together of shared experience that can be remembered in place. Deeply indebted to the ideas of place & wisdom of Dudley Patterson, the somatic rituals of CA Conrad, and Stacy Alaimo’s contention that all life is materially & ethically entangled, spectropoetics, a name incorporating “spectrogram”, or the visual representation of a sound’s frequency, has become a passion project of place & poetry. Please explore the website to read poems, listen to birdsong, or read about methods as I continue to write.