Republic of Apples, Democracy of Oranges: New Eco-Poetry from China and the United States (MĀNOA 31:1)

Qutang Gorge Entrance II, Daixi, 2003. Photograph by Linda Butler. In June 2003, when the reservoir formed, the confluence of the Daixi tributary and the Yangtze River disappeared beneath the waters, which washed over the feet of the distant mountains. The ruins of Daixi town also vanished.
Qutang Gorge Entrance II, Daixi, 2003. In June 2003, when the reservoir formed, the confluence of the Daixi tributary and the Yangtze River disappeared beneath the waters, which washed over the feet of the distant mountains. The ruins of Daixi town also vanished. Photograph by Linda Butler, this issue.

Republic of Apples, Democracy of Oranges presents nearly 100 poets and translators from China and the U.S.―the two countries most responsible for global carbon dioxide emissions and the primary contributors to extreme climate change. These poetic voices express the altered relationship that now exists between the human and non-human worlds, a situation in which we witness everyday the ways environmental destruction is harming our emotions and imaginations.

“What can poetry say about our place in the natural world today?” ecologically minded poets ask. “How do we express this new reality in art or sing about it in poetry?” And, as poet Forrest Gander wonders, “how might syntax, line break, or the shape of the poem on the page express an ecological ethics?”

Eco-poetry freely searches for possible answers. Sichuan poet Sun Wenbo writes:

… I feel so liberated I start writing about
the republic of apples and democracy of oranges. When I see
apples have not become tanks, oranges not bombs,
I know I’ve not become a slave of words after all.

The Chinese poets are from throughout the PRC and Taiwan, both minority and majority writers, from big cities and rural provinces, such as Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture and Xinjiang Uyghur, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Regions. The American poets are both emerging and established, from towns and cities across the U.S.

Included are images by celebrated photographer Linda Butler documenting the Three Gorges Dam, on the Yangtze River, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, on the Mississippi River Basin.

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