Marcella Durand, The Prospect (picture courtesy Delete Press)

The cowl of Marcella Durand’s The Prospect (Delete Press, 2020) is an odd marriage of the pastoral and the apocalyptic. The 2010 {photograph} exhibits the performer Kazu Nakamura, resplendent in white, his arms unfold, in the midst of a Wordsworthian meadow. But that is no easy meadow: it’s the North Mound of the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island — formally closed to new trash in 2001 and within the means of changing into an unlimited park. Behind Nakamura’s patch of pasture, past a band of darkish foliage (and a billboard promoting “YOUR AD HERE”), we will see a vista of oil refinery buildings.

The ebook’s title locates The Prospect, a single lengthy poem in a wide range of varieties, in a lineage of English-language “prospect poems” relationship again to the 18th century (by authors together with John Denham, Alexander Pope, James Thomson), as does its opening citation from Raymond Williams’s The Country and the City: “[…] the view, the ordered proprietory repose, the prospect […]” Poets wrote prospect poems to have a good time specific aristocratic estates, whose grounds had been rigorously and masterfully curated to current sweeping, placing vistas.

What such nice 18th-century panorama architects as Lancelot “Capability” Brown and Humphry Repton sought to realize of their “English style” panorama gardening was a simulacrum of untamed nature, in distinction to the order and inflexible geometrical parterres of earlier masters like André Le Nôtre (who designed the gardens of Versailles). When the English nobleman seemed out from his nation home, he would see a assorted however rigorously composed “landscape” (a phrase that enters English particularly from the vocabulary of portray). But, as Durand factors out, these creations are premised on a “prospect” of financial dominance: “the visual declaration of the view is mine.” Looking out from “manorial windows,” one sees “A line / of wilderness on the horizon. From which / poachers have been evicted.”

The creation of the nice panorama gardens of the 18th century was made attainable by the enclosure motion, whereby huge tracts as soon as held in widespread had been “enclosed” and integrated into non-public estates. The “poacher” — one who traps or hunts animals on non-public property, one who scrounges for one’s dwelling — is a product of the enclosure motion, a determine pressured to the financial fringes, to the perimeters of legality and past, by encroaching improvement.

The nice romantic poet John Clare, to whom Durand addresses a number of lyrics, was a sufferer of enclosure: “His was the first recorded case of ‘ecodepression.’” While Clare’s poem “To John Clare” dwells on the homely particulars of rural life, Durand’s “To Marcella Durand” finds the poet at house in Manhattan, the place her prospect contains the Brooklyn Bridge:

a musician named

Sonny Rollins practiced his saxophone on the bridge
towards the sound of subway, horns, site visitors and wind,
and from that made music, a bit what it’s like
to put in writing poetry from the atmosphere round me.

Making a composition from a metropolis of others.

The English Romantics discovered peace and non secular renewal within the pure atmosphere. Yet Durand’s personal city atmosphere is a supply not of solace however of tension, the place even the air whose strain shapes us is shot by means of with invisible contaminants:

We pressure towards it; that quantity of lead within the air;
particulates, benzene, methane, nitrogen, carbon
dioxide, carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide, did we
do one thing about ozone, ozone warning in the present day.

Durand’s traces dwell repeatedly on greenhouse gasses: world warming, the nice social disruptor of our personal second, is a results of the identical grasping, proprietory impulse that was behind the consolidation of the commons; world warming is the enclosure motion of our day.

A “prospect” is a view seen from a single perspective. This isn’t the one strategy to behold; Durand alludes to Markus Brunetti’s FACADES—Grand Tour exhibition (2018), through which hundreds of digital images are stitched collectively to realize “A flatness that allows a complete visual experience / in which one cornice does not take precedence over another … that allows / justice of perception […].” Since the Renaissance, nevertheless, we’ve taken to seeing in single-point perspective — “So the prospect begins with the viewer.” This subject-centered imaginative and prescient has political and financial penalties:

then it ended with the prospect and the viewer
the backyard turned the housing challenge
the inhabitants turned the poachers
the poachers wanted to eat

And with the introduction of “poachers” comes the arrival of “fences” and “walls.”

The title of Durand’s ebook is basically twin: each the “prospect” in visible phrases — whether or not one sees sweeping meadows and a inexperienced line of bushes or the Brooklyn Bridge — and the “prospect” by way of foreseeing:

The prospect of what’s about to occur
to us, as a species, what is going on now…
the prospect of who we’ve been all alongside
did we ever, have we by no means slot in
panorama, place
when did we come right here
why this place and who we’re
in it, inside it

The prospect, because the local weather scientists, Greta Thunberg, and so many different activists have been telling us, is pretty grim. Durand is much less enthusiastic about urging us to any specific plan of action, corresponding to inexperienced vitality or veganism (that might make the poem a “propectus,” I suppose), than in looking for some as-yet-undiscovered, even utopian, approach of conceiving our place in nature:

even I take a look at it as a spot to discover a deeper I
even we body it
our arms cupped collectively in L shapes
trying to find a perfect perspective
a spot that’s not truly right here, or not but

The “prospect poem” is carefully associated to, maybe even a subset of, the traditional style of the pastoral, through which figures converse in a rural setting with a view to implicitly critique the social order as exemplified within the metropolis. The Prospect isn’t actually a pastoral poem within the basic sense, for, as Durand exhibits us, the excellence between nation and metropolis has, over the previous century, collapsed. The fires now devastating the American West, in addition to those who have devastated Australia and the Amazon, will not be “natural” occasions, however the consequence of environmental change pushed by huge enterprise and the calls for of customers in giant conurbations.

The Prospect, then, is maybe a “post-pastoral” poem, addressing the human relationship to the pure world from a broad historic perspective. Now and once more Durand’s principally plainspoken verses develop into a bit too admonitory, as she takes on the voice of Al Gore or Bill Nye, however for probably the most half her meditations are admirably restrained and delicate: a single-point, subject-centered perspective has been our species’ undoing. Yet, hard-wired as we’re, how are we to step exterior that prospect? Like Kazu Nakamura on the ebook’s cowl, we’re dancing atop a pyramid of our personal waste, earlier than a backdrop of our fossil gas habit. The solely livable prospect is to reclaim some a part of this devastation for a brand new backyard.

The Prospect by Marcella Durand (2020) is revealed by Delete Press and is offered on-line and in bookstores.

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