The International Institute of Geopoetics was founded in 1989 by the poet-writer-essayist Kenneth White (Chair of 20th Century Poetics at the Sorbonne, 1983-1996), who presided over it up to the year 2013, when, in order to devote himself entirely to his own writing, that includes ongoing work in geopoetics, he handed over the presidency to Régis Poulet.
Here is the inaugural text of 1989.
What marks the end of this 20th century, back of all the secondary discourse and all the palaver, is a return to the fundamental, which is to say, the poetic. Every creation of the mind is, fundamentally, poetic.
The question now is to discover where the most necessary, the most fertile poetics are to be found, and to apply them.
If, around 1978, I began to talk of « geopoetics », it was for two reasons. On the one hand, it was becoming more and more obvious that the earth (the biosphere) was in danger and that ways, both deep and efficient, would have to be worked out in order to protect it. On the other hand, I had always been of the persuasion that the richest poetics come from contact with the earth, from a plunge into biospheric space, from an attempt to read the lines of the world.
Since then, the word has been picked up and used, in various contexts. The moment has come to concentrate those currents of energy into a unitary field.
That is why we have founded the Institute of Geopoetics.
The geopoetic project is not one more contribution to the cultural variety show, nor it is a literary school, nor it is concerned with poetry considered as an art of intimacy. It is a major movement involving the very foundations of human life on earth.
In the fundamental geopoetic field come together poets and thinkers of all times and of all countries. To quote only a few examples, in the West, one can think of Heraclitus (« man is separated from what is closest to him »), Hölderlin (« man lives poetically on the earth »), Heidegger (« topology of being »), or Wallace Stevens (« the poems of heaven and hell have been written, it remains to write the poem of the earth »). In the East, there is the taoist Tchung-tzu, the man of the ancient pool, Matsuo Basho, and beautiful world-meditations such as one can find in the Hwa Yen Sutra.
But geopoetics is not the exclusive domain of poets and thinkers. Henry Thoreau was as much an ornithologist and a meteorologist (« inspector of storms ») as he was a poet, or rather, we might say, he included the sciences in is poetics. The link between geopoetics and geography is plain enough, but the link with biology is just as necessary, and with ecology (including mind-ecology) well grounded and well-developed. In fact, geopoetics provides not only a place, and this is proving more and more necessary, where poetry, thought and science can come together, in a climate of reciprocal inspiration, but a place where all kinds of specific disciplines can converge, once they are ready to leave over-restricted frameworks and enter into global (cosmological, cosmopoetic) space. One question is paramount : how is it with life on earth, how is it with the world ?
A whole network can come into being, a network of energy, desire, competence and intelligence.
For the Institute of Geopoetics
April 28th 1989