P17
"By leaves we live": the vital politics and poetics of the tree

Convenors:
Jennifer Clarke (Robert Gordon University)
Rachel Harkness (University of Edinburgh)
Location:
Room 3
Start time:
14 September, 2011 at 14:30
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

Inspired by the idea that "by leaves we live" (Geddes) and by art, poetry, philosophy, forestry and political activism, we invite creative responses that consider the vital poetics and politics of the tree and its social forms and associations, from a variety of approaches and contexts.

Long abstract:

In 'Poetics of Space' Gaston Bachelard muses on the image of the lone tree. Referencing Rilke's poetry, it is described as a figure of being 'concentrated upon itself', concentrating 'the entire cosmos': 'always in the center, of all that surrounds it' (1994[1958]: 239-240). The tree, thus, is the muse and focus for our panel. The tree is rich in symbolism, a recurrent figure in religion, myth and storytelling, a resource upon which many people base their survival, shelter, craft and play. Yet the tree is not merely a 'lone' figure and so its social forms and associations, its politics and poetics, are also our concern. As Geddes wrote: 'by leaves we live'. Human life is intricately bound up with different forms of tree life; orchards, coppices, forests, sacred groves, and plantations are testament to this. Relations between such forms (perhaps understood as place or landscape) and 'lone' tree (as being or organism) may also be productively explored. Various practices have seen human societies attempt control or domination, for instance industrialized forestry's monocultural plantations, yet even here there is a resistant and somewhat mythical liminality; the forest remains powerful, threatening, even magical. In its life-course and the variety of interactions with the living and non-living constituents of the world around it, the tree is the prism through which we propose to consider vital powers and politics. We invite creative responses to the poetics and politics of the tree and its social forms and associations, from a variety of approaches and contexts.