Richard Greenfield’s ‘Eris’ is thematically aligned with the pastoral context of The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral anthology. The poem reflects an ironic moment rather than lightheartedness to underscore the sense of anonymous loss. The tender style of the flower that eventually “turned financial” reveals Greenfield’s deep perception of how the natural world is aligned with the postmodern pragmatism.
The tender style of the flower is perceived in the context of an ancient concept of the pastoral. The latter places a person in the centre of a landscape so that we can feel the importance of each living thing surrounding it and get moved by its existence. Further, to make the allusions to the natural world, Greenfield refers to the relationship with the traditions of Romanism in poetry. He aligns poetic language with the landscape elements and extends them in naturalistic way. Yet, it is not just this peaceful pastoral theme that permeates the poem. Greenfield’s pastoral style twists allow a reader to feel the crisis of the landscape through the nature’s connections with the post-modern urbanism, consumerism, and the existence of self. At the heart of the poem, through the look of his pastoral-versus-pragmatic eye, we see Greenfield’s effort to make us sense the importance of human connection with nature by noticing such tiny creatures as flowers:
Started with the stamen – a fragile scheme
I would appraise it
I looked at it
The opaque hub of it resisted
The gaze wormed itself into the fruit
And turned to see its source through the hole it had chewed (Greenfield).
The lines quoted above show how one single flower may contain the whole world in it. Created without technology or human assistance, its small and delicate parts present a highly complex and “fragile scheme.” The mind of the modern onlooker does not stop praising the beauty and sophistication of the flower. Apparently, the human mind finds it difficult to naturally perceive the beauty and mystery of the flower. Instead, the human mind, spoilt by the impact of the technologically advanced modern world, perceives this beauty step by step, through great concentration and analysis. The poetic persona seems to feel the resistance of the flower to such gazing procedures. These lines clearly show the chasm between the technological mind and the simple perfectionism of the nature.
By juxtaposing the reality of the flower with the reality of the pragmatic world of the 21st century, Greenfield shows how we often tend to forget about the crisis of a natural world.
He conveys this message through thin textual ecology and allusions to the natural world. No matter how advanced the humanity gets with each decade, the undisrupted change of the natural environment is much about degradation mainly owing to man-made effects.
The opposition of the modern man to the nature is well shown by Greenfields’s use prose. It is complex and conveys the mood of quasi-technological realities while it also invites us to join in the tour of poetic modes:
Who builds-over overwrites
the already-there pierces ovary draws kingdom blood
The imperial conceits begin w/bouquets
Counting the tapestries – the ten thousand spoils secreted
to the casual sea for a minute mirrored in the sun (Greenfield).
The part of the poem quoted above shows the greatness of the nature in the context of the infinity. It also expresses the feeling of futility of human life unless people start to align their lives with the nature and perceive themselves in the context of eternity.
By glorifying the affluence of the natural world, the author proves we are just a minor part in it. The nature and its evolvement will overwhelm by any manmade attainments. ‘Eris’ therefore entirely ashamed by nature:
A critique began…
Did I pour acid or water?
Counted the very volume
Oil fields on fire acetated award-winning
This was the stigma of irsa,
Iris erased the tender style of the flower turned financial (Greenfield).
The lines above show how guilty humans are by their torturing the nature. These lines revealed human blindness when many of us choose to do harm to the living things rather than refuse from additional gains.
Greenfield explores our perception of nature and our place in the natural surroundings through the obvious contrast with the man-made reality. Through his poetic touch he emphasizes the naturalness in everything contrasted to the present-day artificiality. He calls us to open up our hearts and get more attentive to the things that surround us. The words “financial”, “oil”, “acid”, and “acetated”, etc are sharp and well indicative of the pain human inflict on the plants and animals of the contemporary natural world.
Greenfield’s metaphorical message is that once we learn how to feel nature around us, we will make our relations more sincere with others. A sense of ‘natural’ should shake us from inside to make our inner nature more open-minded. By watching, feeling, sensing, perceiving and comprehending the nature around us, we can make our hearts grow fonder to people around us. Since nature is beautiful in its own right, every flower, butterfly, sunset, horizon at the dawn can shake us from within and get kinder and more tolerant. This claim can be supported by the example of how the poetic persona is observing the stamen and the hub of the flower and explores the emerging feelings.
Thus, through his poetry Greenfield proves that humans, no matter in how technologically advanced they are, are closely linked to the nature. In perception of the nature, what we feel matters the most. By ignoring the nature, we are not able to dig deeper and allow sincere feeling and emotions in us. So, it is necessary to be close to nature. After reading the poem, one may have a feeling that every little creature in nature bears spiritual sense interconnected with our existence on Earth. Once a person feels such connections from inside, one may say his or her life is full-fledged, where existence is not only material but spiritual as well. While pragmatism loses its power in the eyes of the poetic person, the close-knit link between natural and spiritual grows stronger. The reader realizes that thus is the only connection that can lead us to the eternal world. On this path, the message is people should reconsider themselves from inside as well as reconsider the things around them. This will surely make the lifetime journey easier.
Eris is an example of how in the modern pragmatic world we may carelessly lose the things we take for granted. Greenfield underscores the sense of anonymous loss through human lightheartedness in dealing with nature (namely, harming it). We are primarily granted with the affluent natural world and only a few of us can really enjoy its richness and diversity. The majority, being overwhelmed with artificial and pragmatic realities of everyday existence, cannot do this. Consequently, most people are closed in themselves and cannot reveal their feelings open-mindedly. Eris is a metaphorical symbol of a myriad of things around us we fail to notice. While being closed to the natural world, we simultaneously close our hearts to other people. By thinking about artificial pragmatic values domineering in the age of consumerism, we fail to notice the riches granted to us by nature for free. It is high time we thought about and reconsidered our attitudes towards natural things if we want to get natural in everything we do.