To have or to be: A Poet’s Journey to the Question of Environmental Ethics and Justice

By Katherine Fishburn.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In this paper I discuss the various paths I have taken to become a poet who gives voice to some of the key environmental issues of our time. As I map out this journey I discuss a selection of my own poetry that focuses on the topic of environmental ethics and justice. The main influences on my poetry come from: my own childhood experiences with nature, academic research I have done on pain and my personal experience of pain (inspired by Arthur Frank’s book “The Wounded Storyteller’ and Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s late essay “The Intertwining”), the question concerning technology (inspired by Heidegger’s essay of this name), philosophical hermeneutics (from Gadamer’s work, especially “Truth and Method”), and the ethical obligation to bear witness to suffering. My goal as an essayist and a poet is to move toward the consilience described by E. O. Wilson’s book of that name and to further the project of Erich Fromm as laid out in his book “To Have or to Be.” Just as poetry by its nature cannot offer programs for social change, poets cannot exhort readers to take action; instead, we must inspire them to change by touching the very fiber of their being-in-the-world.

Keywords: Poetry Reading, Environmental Ethics, Environmental Justice, Consilience, Globalization, Physical Sciences, Social Sciences, Hermeneutics, Technology

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.237-248. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 668.168KB).

Prof. Katherine Fishburn

Sole Owner of, Independent Artist and Poet, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA

As a professor of English at Michigan State University, I specialized in African American literature, African literature, women's literature, cultural studies, and literature and medicine. Scholarly books I authored include: Reading Buchi Emecheta: Cross-Cultural Conversations and The Problem of Embodiment in Early African American Narrative. In my retirement I have become a full-time poet (The Dead Are So Disappointing, MSU Press, 2000)and independent artist (my 2005 installation, The Question Concerning Technology, combined my art and poetry and my knowledge of philosophy, ecology and the physical sciences). I have participated in writers' workshops, been visiting poet at Hendrix College (Conway, Arkansas), and won the Florida Review's 2001 editors' award in poetry.


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