Multispecies Poetry

Mara-Daria Cojocaru. 2021. Rede an die/der Rückgratlosen (double meaning: 1) Invertebrate speech; 2) To the spineless). Erasure poem on a page from Darwin’s The Descent of Man (in German): “Die Menschen / als Tiere / aus der Rolle / gefallen” (“Humans / as animals / out of character”). Commissioned by “Lyrik and Wissenschaft”-congress. Courtesy of the artist.
Multispecies poetry is a practice of creative writing that lets itself be informed by the agency of other animals. To that end, it experiments with traditional poetic forms but also seeks to go beyond human language, e.g. by incorporating visual elements or scent. Some of this poetry can be read by other species, too, in their own and ultimately inscrutable ways. All of it, when performed, speaks to animals in virtue of its prosody.

For instance, the poem featured in the image to the right is titled “Rede an die/der Rückgratlosen”, meaning both “Invertebrate Speech” and “To the Spineless”. It is an erasure poem “written” with the means invertebrates would have if they wanted to write poetry, and worked on Darwin’s The Descent of Man (in German). It reads: “Die Menschen / als Tiere / aus der Rolle / gefallen” (“Humans / as animals / out of character”).

The poem was part of a live streamed performance involving the poet and philosopher Mara-Daria Cojocaru, Prof. Dr. Michael Waltenberger and one of Mara-Daria’s companion dogs, Spud von Ratzky. As part of the performance, Spud retrieves poetic “messages” from animals to humans. Among his retrievals is an elegy by animals who were subjected to the mirror test – which can be read only by looking through/into a mirror!

Click on the image to see the poem up close.

This is one advantage of multispecies poetry over traditional ways of eco-poetry or nature and environmental writing which have been, in the main, directed at an exclusively human audience. The ethical heft in this creative project lies with challenging and changing human perspectives on meaning and the making of it. While reading published work can lead to personal transformation and exploration of the lives and minds of animals, the ultimate goal is to invite people interested in other animals to employ literary means themselves. Playing with language allows for them to see commonalities and differences, to fuse consciousness and to benefit from the therapeutic quality of the writing process itself.


“Brutiful” (admission closed)
Instructor: Mara-Daria Cojocaru, PhD (Fellow and Writer in Virtual Residence, PAN Works)

This event will introduce the general public to poetry co-produced by humans and companion dogs, and is scheduled for the National Poetry Library in London, England on 22 February 2023.

Though, of late, there has been a heightened awareness of animals in poetry, most poetry is still exclusively for humans. Multispecies poetry shows that co-evolution between humans and dogs need not stop at culture, and it can help humans appreciate the ways in which “their best animal friends” perceive the world differently. Such multi-species poetry combines layers of human language with visual and olfactory elements; think of, say, an erasure poem that uses a piebald pattern, or of an acrostic written on a dog walk including a scent signature. The event will present multispecies poetry that will have been produced by dog-human teams from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, the UK and the US between June and September of 2022.