For several years I have been experimenting/theorizing/engaging with a “feral poetics” — both as a mode of reading and as poetic praxis.
A feral poetics imagines theories of language and artistic praxis that cannot be summoned through more traditional means. This is partly because the phenomenon of ferality, a state of becoming that exists among species who have been domesticated and now live outside the conditions of human care and captivity, offers multiple and diverse allegorical models for thinking about poetics and community. It is also of critical importance that a feral poetics depends on affiliation with nonhuman animals. A feral poetics articulates the poetics and politics of interspecies alliances, frequently recovering subjects otherwise occluded or erased by highly-gendered nationalist, colonialist, and racist fantasies.
I draw on a wide range of writers, artists, and thinkers in this project, including Bhanu Kapil, Donna Haraway, Elizabeth Grosz, Haryette Mullen, Carol Emshwiller, Trinh T. Minh-ha, bell hooks, Fanny Howe, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Paulo Freire, Fred Moten, Sun Ra, John Cage, Hayao Miyazaki, Ana Mendieta, Alice Notley, Helen Adam, Emily Dickinson, Jack Spicer, Margery Kempe, Frida Kahlo, and Octavia Butler.
I also include the feral ponies of Assateague Island, Shrek the sheep, and all the feral plants and creatures among my collaborators/co-conspirators.
Feral Thing (2006)
poetry chapbook. Published by Big Game Books.
How Hate Got Hand (2009)
A collection of prose pieces about interspecies relationships inspired by my work in wildlife/seabird rescue. Published by eohippus labs, Available here.
“This is What a Feminist Poet Looks Like” & “Items from my Commonplace Book: Women & Animals : Are they Real” (2010)
Essay & Collage
Published at Delirious Hem | Available here.
Fur Birds (2010)
Dusie/Hex Presse | Available here.
“Are Women and Animals Real?” (2011)
&Now Festival of New Writing
University of California-San Diego, San Diego, CA,
Michelle Detorie | Are Women and Animals Real? (3gpp file)
This lecture/presentation introduces fragments of research conducted over the last 35 years into the following question: women and animals, are they real? Accompanying this talk will be a powerpoint presentation and 3-dimensional art-objects and artifacts providing visual evidence and provocation vis-à-vis our central thesis. This lecture/presentation will also serve as a real time test of the veracity and/or the verisimilitude of women and animals, and the audience will surely come away with a firm opinion regarding the ontological status of either or both. Along the way, the following thinkers may be indexed: Donna Haraway, Elizabeth Grosz, Haryette Mullen, Carol Emshwiller, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and others. Sub-topics and intersections could include time-travel, interspecies friendship, future communities, and a shared animal past. We believe that these concerns chime harmoniously with the broader mandate 2011 &Now conference and share in the wider project of collectively rethinking our coming communities.
“Notes Towards a Feral Poetics” (2012)
Emergent Communities in Contemporary Experimental Writing
May 4-5, 2012
University of California Santa Cruz
Abstract: Notes towards a Feral Poetics
About 300 feral ponies inhabit Assateague, a small and narrow barrier island off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia. Although the precise nature of how the ponies came to live on Assateague remains a mystery, a popular legend suggests that the ponies are the descendants of those who escaped from a shipwrecked Spanish galleon in the 16th century. However they arrived, the horses adapted to the harsh island conditions – developing distinct characteristics — and thrived.
In this paper––part of a continuing project that meditates upon the politics of interspecies affiliations, affinities, and alliances––I explore a series of interrelated questions provoked by the Assateague ponies. How can we use this story of feral marronage as a model for community-building and artistic, poetic, and/or pedagogical practice? How can we draw upon this allegory to better understand artistic and experimental writing communities––particularly feminist communities––that have challenged literary traditions and other political and social constructs? And how might a feral poetics undermine the duplicitous categories of “wild,” “tame,” and “domestic”? I enlist a variety of thinkers to help guide this inquiry, including Alice Notley, Fanny Howe, Donna Haraway, Elizabeth Grosz, Harryette Mullen, Carol Emshwiller, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and bell hooks.
Accompanying this talk will be a powerpoint presentation and artifacts providing visual evidence and provocation vis-à-vis the exploration of a feral poetics.
“Troubling the Field: Feral Poetics, Feminism, and the Politics of the Anti-Pastoral” (2013)
Conference on Ecopoetics
University of California-Berkeley,
Abstract: Representations of nature and creaturely life, both in poetry and in the language of environmentalism, remain haunted by the pastoral tradition. As a feminist, I am often concerned by the tacit acceptance of a pastoral frame in writing about nature. In my work as a writer and reader, I have experimented with a feral poetics as way to trouble pastoralism’s duplicitous and highly gendered fantasies of nature as “wild,” “pure,” “unpopulated,” and outside of historical and political time. A feral poetics destabilizes these fantasies, and feral texts articulate and recover the subjects otherwise contained or made invisible by pastoralism’s narratives of nature, nation, state, and species.
In this presentation––part of a continuing project that meditates upon the politics of interspecies affiliations, affinities, and alliances––I outline the contours of a feral poetics, situating it as both an aesthetic and scholarly project of refusing/resisting pastoralism, recalling that pastorlism has often served as the warrant for settler colonialism, racism, and imperialism. In light of a feral poetics, writers, thinkers, and creatures as diverse as Bhanu Kapil, Claudia Rankine, Bernadette Mayer, Donna Haraway, Elizabeth Grosz, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Audre Lorde, Lorine Niedecker, Emily Dickinson, the feral ponies of Assateague Island and New Zealand’s celebrity ovine “Shrek” the sheep can be seen as co-conspirators in a common endeavor.
“Notes Towards a Feral Poetics” (2014)
Acts + Encounters, a book project collaboration with Poetry + Politics Imprint of eohippus labs. Available here,
from my artist’s statement: “In political terms, After-Cave is a feminist, feral poetics. An infiltration. A stealth poetics. Quiet, tenacious, seeking to de-domesticate language in order to render it hospitable. Tracing trajectories of power, making daisy-chains around sites of human and creaturely suffering and conflict, mourning incidents of state violence and corporate crimes against humanity and nature, while also silvering the scars of my own tiny traumas. Also: seeking potentials and hoping.”
Paranoid Histories (2015)
Discussion of feral poetics in the context of essays in “the paranoid style” at Bay Area Public School
Omni Commons, Oakland, CA
January 10, 2015
Reader featuring excerpts from my essay along with pieces by Julia Drescher, CJ Martin, and Kurt Newman is available here.
The Women in Visual Poetry: the Bechdel Test (2015)
Interview/Conversation in collection curated by Jessica Smith for Essay Press.
With Gillian Devereux. I discuss the ways I engage a feral poetics via erasure in The Sin in Wilderness.
“Feral Poetics: New Histories, Different Futures” (2015)
University of Idaho
Abstract: In this presentation, I will discuss the practice of a “feral poetics” in my book After-Cave.
In After-Cave, I engage a feral poetics to trouble narratives of domestication and enclosure. A narrator – adolescent, female, possibly human – traverses a landscape of ecological distortion and industrial decay in search of shelter. Along her way she encounters habitats of ruin and abundance which are made hospitable through the feral thrum of flora, fauna, and language itself. The narrator articulates these spaces as sites of resistance, allowing her to imagine new communities and futures.
“Field Notes on the Meta-Fur” (2016)
Ave 50 Studio
Los Angeles, CA