The “Value” of our Ecological Landscape

by brittlu

Rita Wong’s Forage is an enjoyable read in which she unites language to explain a story behind our ecological issues to international political concerns.  Forage is Rita Wong’s second book of poetry after, Monkeypuzzle which was published in 1998. On the cover of her latest, you see what looks to be computer components, which right away raises the questions about globalization, consumerism, and technological developments. With this being said, Rita Wong also talks about issues surrounding both Chinese and Native cultures that too have been affected in many ways.

Her first poem of this collection is titled “value chain” which really captures the essence of consumerism and how the world is developing technologically, we see an example of this in line three: “the internal frontier: my consumer patterns.” Throughout this poem she makes references to other external sources such as: “so much depends on a thin iron wok” relating to William Carlos Williams poem The Red Wheelbarrow and “hello silent spring” relating to Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring. We then go on to read other poems of garbage, genetically modified food, and cultural landscapes. All these themes intertwine to help shape the big picture of our ecological crises.

Rita Wong is extremely talented with lyrics and writing. In the book’s margins there are spaces that provide needed instances of poetic subtlety. Chinese characters and handwriting surround the borders, and early photographs of Chinese laborers add depth to the work. The use of the handwriting around the poems also creates the use of other people’s point of views; however, I see this technique as a way of giving Rita Wong more credibility behind her work. The deliberate lack of order and punctuation might represent the chaos the lies within our environment and makes the reading of this collection at first confusing, but these poems really capture the reader and their emotions towards the development of our world today.

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