Freshman Seminar: Writing Ecology

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Luis Rodriguez: Trouble in the Barrio

Filed under: Uncategorized April 21, 2008 @ 4:28 pm

Rodriguez represents the non human in his poetry by incorporating cities and humans with nature. One poem that I feel portrays this well is “This Tree, This Poem.” In the poem Rodriguez recognizes the necessity to utilize nature when he sees a tree as fossil fuel, paper, a fence, and rail ties; but he also sees the personality in the tree. He sees a breathing growing creature fighting through the concrete cities for survival. He sees a mother, a bother, a sister, and a father. He ends the poem with “We make of trees what we make of ourselves.” I think this is a very powerful line that shows a great deal of respect for nature and it is this view that is different than many of the authors we have read. Authors like Whitman and Thoreau idealize nature so much that it is almost extreme. Other authors like Sarmiento and Bello have a very realistic view of nature seeing the harm it can cause and knowing we need to utilize it but Rodriguez is the only one that treats trees and nature as equals. They compete with humans for land just as humans compete with each other for land and I really like that outlook.
Rodriguez has an interesting representation of the “concrete river” In his poem “The Concrete River” the river is completely dry, it represents his hatred for his home and “Becomes a steaming bubbling Snake of water, pouring over Nightmares of wakefulness.” These are very descriptive powerful words and portray the river in a negative way. This negativity coincides with the negativity in his life that drives him to get high off of the paint cans. Once he loses himself the river becomes alive, sun dancing off of its surface. In this poem it is obvious that he craves motherly affection and gets it from the high he gets from the paint. He “suckles” on the bag and the dew from the tree represents breast milk. The ending of the poem is very sad, he would rather be dead than back in that dry concrete river.
In the poem “Always Running” Rodriguez can still identify with the river although it is still dry and polluted. He ends the poem powerfully saying that “When all was gone, the concrete river was always there and me, always running.” He takes comfort in the river and its presence ad the fact that it will always be there when so many things in his life weren’t such as his wife and children. It is through this passage that I realized he feels a sense of belonging in this formidable place. He belongs there with the river.

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