Poetry scares some people. Climate change scares a lot of people. Combine them – exponential existential terror, right?
Join HoCoPoLitSo’s Susan Thornton Hobby, environmental activist and writer Julie Dunlap, and the Howard County Library for a virtual climate poetry discussion on May 28, 7 p.m. Register here.
We’ll talk about the poems, listed below, that come at climate change from all different angles. Lots of people have thoughts about climate change, but poets have faceted and polished those thoughts into little gems about our planet and the problems it faces.
“Poetry is moving and touching in a way that dry facts are not,” says Elizabeth J. Coleman, editor of Here: Poems for the Planet. “You can reach people’s hearts. If you tell someone about the hell we’re heading towards, people just despair. They become indifferent. It’s too big. It seems very different when you talk about ‘the polar bear drifting out of history on a wedge of melting ice,’ as a poem by Paul Guest puts it.”
The poems we’ll be discussing in our group on May 28 aren’t bleak, but they do tell the truth, though they might tell it slant, as Emily Dickinson wrote. They’re clever these poets, and deliver messages that both inspire and incite.
Ordinarily, our discussions for An Inconvenient Book Club (the clever name Dunlap devised for our climate fiction book club) take place at the Miller branch of the Howard County Library. We usually talk about cli-fi, the shorthand for climate change fiction. We’ve discussed The History of Bees, American War, and Radio Free Vermont, among other titles. But because we can’t meet at the library, nor get our books from their shelves, An Inconvenient Book Club becomes a little more convenient for you.
Just read the poetry below and ponder the verses. These poems will illuminate the environment, open a window into images about the climate, and offer nudges toward mindfulness.
In our talk together on May 28, we won’t be dissecting these poems as your junior English class splayed out Robert Frost like a frog in biology. Instead, we’ll be appreciating these poems, and thinking about how they respond to climate change.
“Attentiveness is the natural prayer of the soul,” the philosopher Malebranche said. And while most things are closed in a pandemic, nature is wide open.
Read these poems, then go outside and pay attention to nature. Pick one poem that moved or resonated with you most, and then join us May 28 to talk about the ideas.
But register first, so you can receive the link to the video book club. http://host.evanced.info/hclibrary/lib/eventsignup.asp?ID=145052&ret=http://host.evanced.info/hclibrary/lib/eventcalendar.asp?ln=ALL
And if you’re a convert, if you decide that poetry, after all, really doesn’t suck, here are a few more things to read.
- Here: Poems for the Planet, Elizabeth J. Campbell. https://bookshop.org/books/here-poems-for-the-planet/9781556595417
- Black Nature: Four Centuries of African-American Nature Poetry, edited by Camille Dungy.
- Losing Miami, by Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué
- Casting Deep Shade, by C. D. Wright
And if you need a little guidance, try this helpful article: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69955/how-to-read-a-poem
If all else fails, try having some celebrities reading climate change poetry: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2015/nov/20/our-melting-shifting-liquid-world-celebrities-read-poems-on-climate-change
Susan Thornton Hobby