“Of Rare Compatibility”: Jen Bervin’s Silk Poems and Making Kin in the Sericene

Author:David Perry Time:2020-01-13 Click:

Abstract: Scripting what may be read as a “string figure” companion to Donna Haraway’s Chthulucene, Jen Bervin’s 2017 Silk Poems project becomes entangled with the damage of the Anthropocene—and with projects of recuperation in the face of that damage—via a proposed Sericene: an ecopoetic weaving of human-worm-moth symbiosis in silk, a human voicing articulated through the nonhuman persona of Bombyx mori, the domestic silkworm (家蚕 jiācán). This larval Sericene, like Haraway’s critical reinscription of the Anthropocene as the “tentacular” Chthulucene, underscores the necessity of thinking and acting in what Haraway terms “sympoiesis—making-with and becoming-with” in a time of accelerating planetary ecological crisis, insisting that we read ourselves in coproductive kinship with other species not merely as a strategy for poetry, art, and critical intervention, but for long-term multispecies survival. It is important to keep things light, we learn: the silkworm is never a hectoring lecturer, but rather often quite the comedian, good-natured in the face of individual and collective mortalities. Haraway’s Chthulucene and Bervin’s Silk Poems converge in unsettling self into selves, species-being into multispecies being, and suggest sites of refuge, recuperation, and future-oriented sympoiesis within the ongoing crisis of crises which “the Anthropocene” attempts to name, and in which critical memetic neologisms (Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene) seek to intervene, renaming and reframing in coproductive critique.

Keywords: Jen Bervin, Silk Poems, Donna Haraway, Anthropocene, experimental poetry

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