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A School is a Type of Shoal, wildness journal

FIsh Shoal

My latest essay is part of issue 30 of wildness, a UK-based online journal featuring work from both established and emerging writers that embraces the mysteries of the self and the outside world.

Come for the fish shoals, stay for the bird flocks and the many things related or distant in this piece about community, contact, and communion:

“…While to shoal is to be social, which permits some degree of ragtag in makeup and disposition, to school is to sweep in unison together, to glint in the faces of would-be-foes together, dazzling the world with coherence. This level of coordination demands constant vigilance, should, for example, a silver sprat take its eyes off its nearest compatriot, it may find itself suddenly not schooling at all but struck against kin and stricken from the collective, beyond which sailfish patrolling for truants may herd it off with sails and speed and general stealthiness. If enough eyes are corralled away, the entire school can lose its accreditation, ceasing to possess those emergent qualities afforded with being legion, like being nigh impossible to capture or comprehend.…”

This is yet another piece I hope to include in my upcoming essay collection titled Utter, Earth, which will be published by West Virginia University Press in Fall of 2023. If you enjoy wordplay mixed with earthplay, I think you might enjoy this collection that I hope to infuse with delight and silliness. Stay tuned for more details!

Image credit Uxbona from Wikimedia Commons.

A Hearth is a Kind of Home, Pleiades: Literature in Context

Happy to have another nature essay published, this time in the spring 2022 issue of Pleiades, “a literary biannual featuring poetry, fiction, essays, and reviews by authors from around the world.” This issue features a special folio of Latinx LGBTQIA+ Poets, so be sure to check it out!

Titled “A Hearth is a Kind of Home,” my latest piece is a romp around the notion of shelters grown/crafted/scavenged across the world, spanning everything from singing scallops and extinct ammonites to the longhouses of deposed despots and the communal nests of social weaver birds. Here’s an excerpt:

“…In the end, a home is forged through its inhabitation. Gravitas, Apollo & Associates may have accreted stardust into rocky orbs, but tenant quality is a chief reason why Earth remains magnetic while Mars rests rusty and derelict. Diligent renters like asparagus ferns and phytoplankton can infuse a space with literal feng shui regardless of placement, while members of the mycelial network are the most cleanliness-obsessed caretakers you will ever find, being matter-breaker-downers by trade. To be sure there are loud and noisy ones like howler monkeys and greengrocer cicadas, but no one minds, really, and they tend to throw the best block parties (the latter’s coming out celebration is always worth the seven years’ wait.) Besides, who can stay mad at flamingos and boreal chorus frogs and screaming hairy armadillos for being a bit raucous after lucking out in securing leases on a planet so lush, so oxygenated, so amenable to rewroughting?

This was a fun one to research and write, and a piece I hope to include in my upcoming essay collection titled Utter, Earth, which will be published by West Virginia University Press in Fall of 2023. Until next time!

The Perfect Party Guest, Center for Humans and Nature

Photo by Denys Gromov on Pexels.com

Delighted to share that I have an essay published by the Center for Humans and Nature, “a nonprofit organization, publisher, forum, and place to explore, connect, and nurture our understandings of and responsibilities to the natural world.”

Titled “The Perfect Party Guest,” the piece makes the case of considering certain creatures to your next gathering/shindig, ones that are perhaps not on everyone’s radar. Here’s an excerpt:

“When deciding on whom to invite to your next gathering, be sure to extend consideration to the sloth. Either the two-toed or three-toed variety will do, for each distant relation will have unique insights to share about their suspensorial lifestyles, which is just a tongue-pleasing way of describing upside-down living on trees. These days you needn’t even worry about tailoring the invitation like you would eleven thousand years ago, when sloths of the giant and grounded species might suddenly show up at your door, not being able to fit through, and wouldn’t that be dreadfully embarrassing, having to turn away guests because the fire code for your condo common room doesn’t permit for twelve-foot tall, elephant-sized vegetarians, and even if it did, you may never live down the fact that your party might be the only one in history to ever run out of salad…” 

You can read the full piece on the “Stories and Ideas” section on the Center of Humans and Nature’s newly revamped website, or later as part of my upcoming essay collection titled Utter, Earth. If you are interested in further readings on the more-than-human world, I highly recommend picking up the Kinship five-volume series, published by the Center’s Press and co-edited by Gavin Van Horn, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and John Hausdoerffer:

Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations is a lively series that explores our deep interconnections with the living world. These five Kinship volumes—Planet, Place, Partners, Persons, Practice—offer essays, interviews, poetry, and stories of solidarity, highlighting the interdependence that exists between humans and nonhuman beings. More than 70 contributors—including Robin Wall Kimmerer, Richard Powers, David Abram, J. Drew Lanham, and Sharon Blackie—invite readers into cosmologies, narratives, and everyday interactions that embrace a more-than-human world as worthy of our response and responsibility. These diverse voices render a wide range of possibilities for becoming better kin.”

Crafting with Ursula: Writing Nature and Nature Writing

Crafting with Ursula: A Conversation with David Naimon and Isaac Yuen

I’m very excited to share a recent conversation I had with David Naimon, host of Between the Covers. A bit about the show:

Between the Covers , a literary radio show and podcast hosted by David Naimon, is brought to you by Tin House. These long-form in-depth conversations have been singled out by the GuardianBook Riot, the Financial Times, and BuzzFeed as one of the most notable book podcasts for writers and readers around. 

I’ve been a big fan of David’s interviews for years, having come across his work through his three craft talks with Ursula K. Le Guin, which was later published as the book Conversations on Writing. (His own creative writing is also amazing.) So imagine my delight and surprise when he approached me to contribute to a new series called “Crafting with Ursula,” in particular around the subject of nature writing.

Some of the stories we discussed, like “Direction of the Road” and the “Author of Acacia Seeds“, have been featured in the past here on Ekostories. Others, like “The Bones of the Earth” and “Vaster than Empires and More Slow,” are worth checking out should you be intrigued by our all-too-brief exploration of them. We also discussed a few of the essays that will be part of my upcoming collection titled “Utter, Earth” through West Virginia University Press.

Well-researched, perceptive, and erudite, David kindly linked all the Le Guin stories that were mentioned throughout the episode via Bookshop, along with some of my personal touchstones within the genre of nature writing.

I hope you enjoy listening to our conversation as much as I enjoyed delving into this subject with David. If you do, consider subscribing to and supporting Between the Covers—it’s honestly one of the best shows on writing and literature around!

Utter, Earth – AGNI Magazine

Thrilled to cap off the year with a few pieces of publication news! My latest essay titled “Utter, Earth” has been published in issue 94 of AGNI Magazine, a literary journal based out of Boston University. (Update: The piece has been selected to be part of Pushcart Prize XLVII: Best of the Small Presses 2023—a tremendous honour!) A bit about the issue:

AGNI 94 Portfolio

Utter, Earth” is a curation of scientific extracts, organized in the fashion of a Rafil Kroll-Zaidi’s “Findings” from Harper’s (I love his interview with Tin House called “Findings is a Dolphin“), but a bit more focused around the goings and comings of the natural world. Within the piece you’ll find elephants and elephantnosefish and diabolical ironclad beetles and everything else in between. Here’s an excerpt:

“Weddell seals vocalize nine types of sounds beyond the range of human hearing. Guinea baboons learn to grunt in the accent of their preferred social group. Glass frogs pitch their calls higher near roaring waterfalls while waving hello to potential mates. The croaks of male gulf corvina resemble underwater machine-gun fire in sound and decibel level; spawning aggregations can induce hearing loss in nearby marine mammals. Deaf, earless moths sport wing scales that dampen and deaden predatory sonar. Bats can crash into large sponge walls with weak echoes, not unlike people walking into glass doors. Solitary minke whales seem to abandon efforts to hear and be heard in waters with heavy shipping and military activities. The album Songs of the Humpback Whale officially reached interstellar space in August 2012 onboard Voyager 1; it is not part of the Golden Record’s “Sounds of Earth” track with tame dogs, wild dogs, and hyenas, but mixed amongst the recorded human “Hellos” in fifty-five languages. In 40,000 years, the probe will drift within 1.6 light-years of Gliese 445, a star in the constellation of Camelopardalis. What we think of as a giraffe is in reality four genetically distinct species, some of which have been recorded humming at night. Researchers are unsure if these sounds are passive, like snores, or active messages intended for fellow giraffes, swaying in the black.”

Here is an additional interview I did with AGNI on the piece, if you are interested in the process.

In related news, I’m very excited to announce that this essay will be included in my upcoming collection, also titled Utter, Earth, which will be published by West Virginia University Press in Fall of 2023. Happy to be sharing more in the upcoming months—until then, I wish you all a restful holiday season!