The Cascadia Review: A New Voice for the Bioregion

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by Dana Guthrie, curator and editor of the Cascadia Review

(The Cascadia Review is a new journal of poetry published in, and for members of, the Cascadian bioregion. The following is excerpted from the Review’s FAQ, which is hosted on the Review’s website, )


Why Cascadia and not a more conventional way of defining place?
Good question. My reasons are twofold: First, this is the place I want the publication to serve. Second, looking at place organically as opposed to conventionally opens up exciting possibilities for readers and contributors alike.

I wanted Cascadia Review to be steeped in a region, its character defined by the poetic voices showcased. I initially intended to focus on eastern Washington, but there were voices spilling over state lines that I did not want to exclude — and that I sensed shared a great deal with the voices in eastern Washington.

I actually had the Cascadia bioregion in mind when I founded the publication. I appreciated the name “Cascadia” because it anchored the publication in a strong natural feature and could be scaled to accommodate various takes on place. The more I looked at the Cascadia bioregion’s boundaries, especially as they overlaid the area coined by Joel Garreau in 1981 as the “Empty Quarter,” the more I sensed this was the region I needed to serve.

Cascadia is not the entire Empty Quarter (which in terms of land is vast) and is not entirely empty (since cities such as Seattle, Portland and Vancouver are included — and since no place is ever truly empty). What Cascadia offers, in terms of contributors to Cascadia Review, is both unity and diversity — shared and distinct voices — with poets from urban and rural areas, including many rural areas that tend to be overlooked.


Isn’t Cascadia just a made-up place?
Cascadia is as valid a definition of place as any. The logic behind Cascadia’s boundaries is informed by the land, culture and people inhabiting the area. This makes the “place” Cascadia defines both intuitive and sensible: Its borders are not arbitrary; they follow natural and cultural lines.

All definitions of place offer a means for understanding that place, embodying that place and experiencing that place. Different definitions can lead to different behaviors, attitudes and outcomes, particularly outcomes that affect the environment and human life.

The lines Cascadia draws offer an opportunity for deeper engagement with the land, the past and present culture, and one another.

I recently looked at maps that draw alternative lines of demarcation within North and South America using various lenses. These included:

  • Equalizing population between regions (which means these “places” would continually shift with population changes)
  • Using local ecology and culture as the basis for creating points of division between regions
  • Creating regions based on food traditions (otherwise known as “food nations”)
  • Defining regions by way of ecoregions, which have several levels and were initially developed to improve ecological management programs
  • Defining regions in terms of bioregions, which blend geographical terrain with a terrain of consciousness and include ecology, culture, indigenous peoples and beliefs, food, and other markers of place

This list, which only includes some of the ways people are thinking about place and the partitioning of North and South America, is exciting because it illustrates how many lenses and ways into place there are. We can, if we so desire, look beyond borders that are largely arbitrary (e.g., a straight state line drawn through a watershed) and largely political (e.g., drawing a state line or country border in such a way that confers financial advantages on one side of the line or the other) and instead choose to define place in terms that make more sense or at least challenge us to inhabit our spaces and our lives in different — and more thoughtful — ways.

What makes “more sense”? Perhaps adding to our repertoire a definition of place that encourages deeper and broader engagement in the place or places we call “place,” that allows us to be invested in the whole of a system as opposed to only part of it (e.g., an entire river, not just the part that falls in this or that state, country or province), and that challenges the artificial boundaries which keep us disconnected in favor of boundaries that promote connection — including creative and cultural connection.


Do I have to be a ‘bioregional poet’ to submit?
Not at all. Bioregional poetry is a wonderful body of work that expresses the core ideals of the bioregional movement.

These poets emphasize deep ecology and respect for the land, inclusion of indigenous wisdom, and a unique expression of the region, among other characteristics.

As editor of Cascadia Review, I love bioregional work and encourage its submission. This work is important because it gives expression to the deeper underlying concepts that flow from a place designed around, and hoping to live in harmony with, nature.

At the same time, because the bioregion is both a natural place – which is evolving and changing – and a consciousness – which is also necessarily evolving and changing – it seems that every poetic voice in the region – regardless of approach, subject matter or style – is not only Cascadian but also important to the ongoing understanding of an at once unified and polyvocal suite of Cascadian identities.

We need voices from the bioregion as much as we need voices of the bioregion.


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