I’ve decided to officially declare August Homo narrans month on WIZ. Throughout the month, I’ll post narrative prose and poetry that’s people-centric in nature. Homo narrans (“storytelling man”) is John D. Niles’ provocative turn on our self-assigned scientific designation Homo sapien:
Only human beings possess this almost incredible cosmoplastic power, or world-making ability… Through storytelling, an otherwise unexceptional biological species has become a much more interesting thing, Homo narrans: that hominid who not only has succeeded in negotiating the world of nature, finding enough food and shelter to survive, but also has learned to inhabit mental worlds that pertain to times that are not present and places that are the stuff of dreams (p. 3).
When I write poems and essays that focus on nature, human presence permeates them— my presence out in nature as observer of and participant in some events and also as teller of the stories I relate. Also deeply important: the audience who follows these narrative trails with me. Though it might not appear obvious, my writing is all about people. I wouldn’t present my narratives to audiences if I did not carry deep and growing feeling for fellow humans. But I worry— a little— that the feeling I bear toward my own kind doesn’t shine through as much as I might hope. So I’m tipping my hand.
One of the reasons I don’t write much (comparatively) about people is that hummingbirds or deer or swallows don’t especially care much if I write about them, but some of the people with whom I’ve had stunning encounters and whose stories weave through mine might feel put out by my narrative take on events or as if confidences have been betayed. I embark on this project with the greatest respect and undying affection for my fellow beings. As far as I’m concerned, the same rules of engagment apply in the human environment as when I’m out in the natural one.
Pretending, for the moment, they are not one and the same environment.
Throughout August, then, WIZ will run narrative pieces celebrating the human presence on this planet and in general reveling in both the perks and glorious ironies of being human. Readers wishing to join in— please feel encouraged to do so. Stories, poems, fiction, or hybrid pieces that weave natural threads through the human narrative tapestry are especially welcome. Please read the Submissions guidelines then send your best Homo narrans efforts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Niles, John D. Homo Narrans: The Poetics and Anthropology of Oral Literature. Philadephia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.