Hopeless Poetics in Ecological Poetry
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In this thesis I theorize hopelessness in contemporary Canadian ecological poetry in contrast to capitalist ideology and activist discourse. Drawing on Tim Lilburn’s work, I identify two varieties of hopelessness: despair and penthos. The former is characterized by disappointment, a sense of injustice, and calculations for redress. The latter is avoids these states in its hopelessness, and it is characterized by the pursuit of apokatastatic desire: the desire to eliminate human desires in the interest of identifying with other-than-human beings. Penthos is opposed to both capitalist ideology, which is premised on the desire to consume, and the activist impulse, which is closely related to states of despair. Examining Sina Queyras’s Expressway, the poetry of Don McKay, Rita Wong’s forage and Sharon Thesen’s The Good Bacteria, I develop the idea of penthos in the contemporary Canadian iteration of the lyric.