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Don McKay, a Canadian poet born in Ontario in 1942, is known for many of his amazing works. Don McKay writes mainly about his interest in nature, specifically birds. McKay uses poetry as a way of communicating what is going on in the environment and does this by writing in a very straightforward way. He has several books for which have earned him awards such as Canadian Authors Association literary award, 1983; National Magazine award, 1991; Governor General's award for poetry, 1991, among others. McKay's work emphasizes a natural setting like rivers, birds, trees, etc. His poetry shows a concern for the natural environment, specifically how the forests lives together with us.
What exactly is Eco-Criticism? An interesting fact about eco-criticism is how this word came to be. Based on the book, The Eco-Criticism Reader by Cheryll Glotfelty, it mentions that the word eco-poetics, environmental literacy criticism and green cultural studies, all mean eco-criticism. However before all of those words were invented, eco-criticism was just some random subject dispersed all around the world. Writers and poets knew about it but it was not an important movement. Overtime however, the word eco-criticism was used the most, instead of environmental movement, because of it was easier to understand. If we break it down, eco means environment and criticism a critique of a work, which gives a sense of two systems that survive and work together.
The word eco-criticism became know even more after William Rucker wrote an essay in 1978 called Literature and Ecology: An experiment to Eco-criticism. Rucker describes the word eco-criticism as "the application of ecology and ecological concepts to the study of literature". This definition focuses only on the science of ecology, making it very restricted compared to nowadays definition of eco-criticism, which is "the study of the relationship between literature and the environment."(Glotfelty). Subsequent to Rucker's essay, the eco-criticism movement was known because of two works, The Eco-criticism Reader by Cheryll Glotfelty and The Environmental Imagination by Harold Fromm. Both, Cheryll and Harold Fromm, define eco-criticism as a study between literature and the natural world. Furthermore in The Ecocriticism Reader , Glotfelty mentions that even though there are many ways to understand and study eco-criticism , we should recognize that "the human culture is connected to the physical world , affecting it and being affected by it."(Glotfelty, 7).
Now that we know the origin of Eco-Criticism and what is means, what does an Eco-Critic do? Based on articles found in the internet, an eco-critic investigates what exactly the word nature means, they examine how the environment or wilderness has changed throughout history and whether the current issues are mentioned in today's literature. Furthermore they re-read literary works, paying attention to the natural world. Eco-critics ask questions like: How is nature represented in this sonnet? In what ways has literature itself affected humankind's relationship to the natural world? Do men write about nature differently than women do? How does the environment affect it and what role does it play in the poem? Overall, the job of eco-critics is to investigate what exactly the word nature means, what humans think of the environment and specifically how this two coexists and how it has changed over time.
As we already know, Don McKay was among the few poets who admired everything about nature, "Song for the Song of the Chipping Sparrow", is one among many that he wrote that talk about birds specifically. To appreciate the poem, Song for the Song by the Chipping Sparrow, we must familiarize ourselves with the chipping sparrow or Spizella passerine. This bird's is brown above and white-grey on the above. It also has a black line running through its eye. The sparrow is adapted to human developments; it is found on lawns, grassy fields, orchards and parks. However they also enjoy oak, birch and eucalyptus trees. Their diet consists mainly of seeds and herbs and during the breeding season they also hunt for insects that are high in protein. They also sometimes eat small fruits, like cherries. When it comes to building a nest, females do the entire job. They don't get any help from the males; however they are taking care of them in the process. It usually takes 2 to 3 days for female to finish the nest. We can typically find this hidden in branches, three to ten feet off the ground. However, females tend to abandon a nest after they start one, and move on to some other tree to build another.
Song for the song of the Chipping Sparrow is a poem that tells us a story about this bird, the sparrow, and this boy's inability to speak because of his stutter. In the first two lines Don McKay proposes a solution of this by saying "Let's clear our phlegm-clogged fucked-up throats" (line 2). From this moment on and until the end of the poem, there will be change in this boy's life and he learns to speak properly and master language. This poem has thirteen short lines and is written in free verse. Each line is a continuation of the previous one, as it all together tells a story. The speaker of the poem is Don McKay and he is talking directly to the reader but at the same time he is convincing himself that there will be change in this boy's life. We see this at the end of the poem when he says "For we will be changed" (line13). The tone of the poem is the same throughout the poem, this being very relaxed and informative. To further understand the poem we must understand the relationship between the bird and the boy. This is to see this boy's problem as something beautiful and natural, just like the sparrows call. The diction of the poem is very straightforward and colloquial which helps the reader understand a little bit about what the poem is about. Throughout the poem from start to finish we notice the repetition of the word "Lets". Which makes an emphasizes to what Don McKay is saying about this boys stutter, it's like letting us know that this problems he has it's not permanent , it can be fixed and it will be fixed. So let's start this process of change. Let's not forget the title of the poem, "Song for the Song of the Chipping Sparrow". It clearly states what the poem main topic is but when we read the poem it's hard to understand why it has the word "song" in it. Additionally after analyzing the poem closely, the theme of the poem is the sparrow's song or call in connected to Tommy Moss stutter.
As I mentioned earlier eco-criticism is the study of literature and the environment. In the Don McKay poem "Song for the Song of the Chipping Sparrow" we are brought upon this story of a bird and a boy with a stutter. To understand this poem we should look at it from an eco-critical point of view. If we separate into two parts the first eight lines talk about how natural a stutter can be. Basically what Don McKay wais says is to clear up your throats and move on.
The natural world becomes an integral feature of a play's narrative.
Using ecocritical methodology Hamilton explores what she refers to as "the dramatic ecology" of King Lear. rather it explores how the natural world and humanity influence each other.