“Recycles: the Eco-Ethical Poetics of Found Text in Contemporary Poetry”

Harriet Tarlo


This essay proposes that the use of found text is particularly prevalent in the work of experimental British and American poets with an interest in environment and ecology. It considers whether this recycling of texts might be considered a form of ecopoetics. Drawing on and drawing together the work of British and American contemporary poets, it examines found text poetry in the light of this thesis by considering three central areas: the methodology employed by poets in their use of found text; the spirit of citation (ranging from homage to satire); and the eco-ethical significance of this practice. The range of poetry referenced illustrates the diversity of found poetry methodologies and introduces the reader to some little known texts by new writers such as Dorothy Alexander, as well as to poems by well-established writers such as Rachel Blau DuPlessis. The essay argues that, in all this work, we see writing in which an eco-ethical stance is embedded in a form that endeavours to stimulate the reader into understanding and action. Further, these found text methodologies work against the capitalist commodification of poetry within a culture that prizes originality and ownership above collaboration and globality. The essay attempts to practise what it preaches by using the poets’ own words on these issues via writers’ notes, interviews and e-mail conversation.


Experimental poetics; 20th-century poetry, U.K. and U.S.; "found text"; recycling; ecopoetics; Dorothy Alexander; Richard Caddel; Jack Collom; Tina Darragh; Marcella Durand; Rachel Blau DuPlessis; Cynthia Hogue; Tony Lopez; Frances Presley; H. Mullen

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@Journal of Ecocriticism. ISSN 1916-1549