English professor’s poetry book could help readers value nature

A massive 2007 oil spill in the San Francisco Bay inspired Brian Teare to write his sixth poetry book.

English professor Brian Teare will be publishing his sixth book, "Doomstead Days", later this year. | COURTESY / RYAN COLLERD

Brian Teare started writing his sixth poetry book the day a marine ship spilled 53,000 gallons of oil into the San Francisco Bay.

The Cosco Busan scraped the San Francisco Bay Bridge on Nov. 7, 2007, and the ship’s owners paid millions in damages for restoration projects.

“Life on earth and water are inextricably linked, but so are water and industry,” said Teare, a Temple University English professor who lived in San Francisco at the time of the accident. “These are facts most of us know intellectually, but witnessing the oil spill in 2007 changed that into a more embodied knowledge for me. The poems in the book really unfolded in various directions from there.”

The spill inspired Teare to explore the relationship between human actions and the environment, he said. On April 2, the nonprofit literary press Nightboat Books will publish Teare’s sixth book, “Doomstead Days.” The book has eight poems about humans’ connections to their surrounding environments.

“I wanted to write this book in a way that not only teaches, but makes readers engaged with the emotional and physical aspects of our environment,” Teare said.

Teare came up with the name for his book after a guy from a dating app introduced him to the “doomstead movement,” which Teare said is a combination of living off the grid, growing food and considering the impacts of nuclear war.

“A lot of doomsteaders are living on their own and arming themselves by making shelters for possible nuclear wars,” Teare said.

“The United States behaves like a doomstead, especially in the era of Trump where we are shutting down borders, hoarding our own resources and how we don’t even want to trade with other people,” he added.

“Doomstead Days” also revolves around Teare’s own relationship with the environment, like Philadelphia’s waterways. In the book, Teare wrote a poem about the Wissahickon Creek, which runs through Montgomery and Philadelphia counties into the Schuylkill River.

Teare wrote about the creek because it vividly explains how we connect with water and the ecosystem, he said. The creek shows and explains the relationship between human beings and their ecosystem.

“Everything that flows into the creek is connected to us and we are connected back to it,” Teare said. “The creek water flows directly into us. There’s again a very literal connectivity of water throughout the hydrology of Philadelphia and how it’s connected to humans.”

Teare moved to Philadelphia in August 2011, but while still living in San Francisco he became close friends with the poet Jared Stanley. Stanley said Teare’s writing, which changed after he moved, describes the Pennsylvania’s landscape in a moving way.

“His use of words allows us to see and imagine our connection with nature, especially when he writes about water in Philadelphia,” Stanley said.

Award-winning poet Gillian Conoley said Teare addresses his relationship with Earth in his work in a compassionate and inventive way. The connections he draws explore both a separation and union with the environment, which makes his work distinctive, she added.

Teare hopes his new book will help readers better respect nature.

“The basic message from my book is that we are all connected to the environment and that’s why we need to take care of it,” Teare said. “This connection is very invisible, and we seem to take it for granted. We need to realize it’s there.”

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