According to a UN report published in 2019, up to one million species face extinction by 2100. Such a scale of loss outpaces language. Drawing on Denise Riley’s work on the autonomy of language, this article argues that contemplating extinction involves attending to language’s capacity to speak outside its context. Mindful of the 40% of amphibian life under threat of extinction, it examines three poems about frogs, by Paul Muldoon, Kathleen Jamie, and Vahni (Anthony Ezekiel) Capildeo, as instances of Riley’s concept of ‘lyric shame’, where the poet acknowledges the ‘voice of language itself … trying to speak’. Focusing on allusion, apostrophe, and ekphrasis (facets of the poem that involve a clinamen, a turn away from or towards the subject) it argues that the lyric poem – as an occasion where shame gives rise to song – can also be a vehicle for encountering the lament of long-neglected non-human voices.
|Journal||Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism|
|Early online date||12 Jun 2022|
|Publication status||Published - Nov 2022|