Wild Culture: Ecology and Imagination
by Whitney Smith (Editor), Christopher Lowry (Editor)
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by Ted Whittaker
WHAT GOOD bathroom/on-the-bus/ibeforesleep reading is the anthology Wild Culture: Ecology and Imagination (Somerville House, 211 pages, $18.95 paper), harvested from the defunct quarterly of the same name by Whitney Smith and Christopher Lowry. (I imply no slur. The Journal of Wild Culture was an agreeably cuddly soft-science mag.) What`s wild here? Not much any more, really, most of the contributors seem to be saying. Many of the poems, essays, stories, visuals, and unclassifiable little verbal snippets are amusing, domesticated pieces (many about city life, as could be expected from such a thoroughly Hogtownish publication as JWC) that sit in one comfy spot, snouts aloft, snuffling the breeze.
For me, the strength of the book lies in the interviews. JWC managed to net, pin to boards, and display a few currently newsworthy thinkers - Merlin Stone, William Thompson, Robert Bly - and to ask them useful questions while they wriggled. Thompson`s good for proposing outrageously provocative or simply dorky notions that are at least worth gnawing on. "...there is no such thing as nature; nature is the horizon of culture." Or "those who were good at living with trees are on their way out, and those who are good at living with video display terminals and silicon tubes will be selected for." Pretty scary, as Bob Dylan once observed.
Smith and Lowry serve up loads of tame or semi-tame culture, certainly. Cheek by jowl with a Christopher Dewdney owl poem stands an interview with two of Canada`s best cooks, Michael Stadtlander arid Christopher Klugman; not far away fizzes a bpNichol squib about the need to understand kids` imaginations vis-a-vis their toys (a tall order, that). And Marni Jackson dishes out a potted history of PMS.
Wild Culture is a better buy than a short shelf of Psychology Today or Organic Gardening, not because it`s more informative, but because it`s got style, because the editors, bless their urbane little hearts, aren`t afraid to kick down fences between disciplines, to be trivial. They realize, as Emerson remarked, that a weed is "a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered," or (to get really literary), that every thing that is is holy.