MIGRATORY TEXTS: MUTANT TERRITORIES AND THE LANGUAGE OF PROSTHESIS

This essay expands upon the range of possibilities encompassed by the term ‘biopoetry’ as coined by Eduardo Kac in 1999, by exploring an alternate example of the genre in a recent collaborative work by Galician poet Chus Pato and Canadian poet Erín Moure, Secession/Insecession (2014). I also wish to situate the emerging field of biopoetry within Merleau-Ponty’s theories of the phenomenology of language and expression, which share with both Kac and Pato/Moure a vital interest in the boundaries between speaking and non-speaking worlds and contain what I believe to be elements of a poetic theory pertinent to 21st century biopoetics. While Kac’s Genesis experiment (quite literally) offers voice to the bacterial world, Pato and Moure, in contrast, situate the poet in a space removed from language, where she writes in ‘secession’ from institutionalized words through the trope of poetry as ‘prosthesis’. Although their visions of biopoetry appear to appear to mark opposite ends of a spectrum, the works of Kac and Pato/Moure each offer poetry as a translational bridge, navigating tensions between worlds. Ultimately, biopoetry stirs questions of political and ethical concern through experimental forms that contest the dominion of words over nature. At stake is the reclamation of the radical alterity of non-speaking worlds, to include the ‘muteness’ of time, geographic territories, and languages lost through forced migration, in addition to the ‘otherness’ of non-human biological life. Biopoetry plays at the margins, testing the fragile ground between a human world demarcated by language, and a world that has no need of it, or of us.

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