Presenting engagements (including reviews) of poetry books & projects. Occasionally there will be Featured Poets, as well as offerings from "The Critic Writes Poems" series. Deadline is ongoing: reviews will be posted as submitted and accepted. Please engage!
Monday, December 25, 2017
A CHANGE OF CLIMATE edited by SAM ILLINGWORTH and DAN SIMPSON
DAN SIMPSON & VALERIE MASSON-DELMOTTE Engage
Climate change is
real. It is happening now. It effects all of us. And the only way that we can
mitigate its effects in a meaningful fashion is to take collective action. Part
of the challenge that we face in mobilising this collective action is in
convincing people from currently less affected areas that climate change is
right now, this very second, responsible for the destruction of thousands of
ecosystems, insects, animals, plants, birds, and humans. What is needed is
something that can transcend cultural barriers, and which can contextualise and
localise a global problem. What is needed is poetry.
In the summer of
2017, we initiated a global poetry competition. A challenge to find 20 poems that
spoke about climate change in different voices, and which would help to make
real this global, interdisciplinary problem. The only stipulations that we set
were that the poems had to be about climate change (however the author might
perceive this) and that they had to be 40 lines or less. We received 174
entries from 23 countries in five different languages, and after a rigorous
selection process 20 poems were chosen, the result of which is this book: A Change of Climate. Some of the poems
in this collection are sad, some of them are angry, some of them are even
funny. But all of them are real. Real poems from real people about the very
real topic of climate change.
As Helen Mort notes
in her foreword to this book (see below): talking about climate change is difficult. Even
experts find it challenging to establish a common language that communicates
their research, statistics, and emotions effectively. Poetry presents an
opportunity for people to express themselves in a different way, to find a
fitting language that enables them to talk about climate change in a manner
that is personable to them, one which can help them to make sense of this
global problem in a very local context.
All of the profits
from this book will go to the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), an
organisation that works hard to protect both our people and our planet, by
campaigning for human rights and the rights of the environment. EJF investigate
and expose environmental and human rights abuses through film and photography
and by purchasing this book, you are helping to support their Climate Campaign,
which is centred on fighting for the rights of climate refugees. We hope that
you enjoy reading the poems that are collected within this book, and that
through reading them you are able to find your own voice in relation to climate
change. A voice that you can then use to take the collective action that is
needed to save our people and our planet.
Dr Sam Illingworth & Mr Dan Simpson
Visions of Unwanted
Climate change is
the focus of my research, and as the co-chair for the Working Group 1 on the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) I am coordinating a tremendous
scientific endeavour. One in which hundreds of volunteer scientists from
diverse backgrounds are collectively assessing the state of knowledge in
climate and climate change sciences, and distilling their key findings for
Climate change is
my scientific homeland, and I have long explored various options to share my
fascination for climate sciences and their implications with children, with
onlookers, and with those who are impervious to numbers, maps and graphs.
How can we share
the history of climate science, the discoveries and challenges, the scientific
facts, and the open questions?How can
we share the outcomes of climate science so that they can percolate into the
general culture? How can we build bridges across knowledge approaches and
systems, across visions of the world? How can we share our sense of urgency and
I usually refer to
climate change as an impressionist painting: you need to look at it from a
distance to be able to distinguish the overall picture from the juxtaposition
of individual colour splashes. Unfortunately, our daily life facilitates a zoom
on these individual colour splashes: we undergo local and short-term weather
and cannot directly perceive global and long-term changes; the flow of
information brings patchy news which do not facilitate understanding; alarmist
approaches attract attention, but coping with anxiety fuels denial; and
merchants of doubt deploy their skills to blur the bigger picture.
themselves are challenged in their abilities to communicate their findings. In
our work life, scientific rigor and accuracy are crucial. But scientific jargon
and the language of uncertainty are not always our most useful allies when we
want to share our knowledge with a wider audience.When presenting key findings of climate
science assessments, I have often joked and said that scientists are not poets.
I was wrong.
who is an atmospheric scientist, is exploring poetry as a vector to communicate
scientific research in an engaging manner. I am very honoured that he asked me
to write this foreword.
I have repeatedly
been impressed by the complementarity of art and sciences. Science is about
reason, about understanding our world, about objectively building and
structuring knowledge in a verifiable manner. Art is about senses, emotions,
representations and symbols, dialogue and beauty. I see beauty in science, when
methodologies are elegant; and some see an art in methods of climate science
and in scientific assessments…
The 20 winning poems
assembled in this book provide stunning visions of A Change of Climate.
Your journey will
start by thoughts of bees and their ‘giant furred white bear version’, polar
bears, together with hopes for heritage and survival for ‘something old and
more than human.’
It is followed by
the awkward silence of an impossible conversation, which I understand to
reflect the challenges to make climate change issues barge into the daily
life.Why aren’t we prepared to manage
risks? People from the Leeward Islands were recently hit by a category 5
hurricane ironically named Irma, as a ‘clairvoyant.’ The tribute to these
people dives into the disaster shock, and stresses our misperception of
invulnerability when watching ravages ‘from a balcony believed to be strong.’
and hope is expressed in ‘SLAG’, stressing that you can like different things,
including what can be perceived as a nuisance. It describes the nostalgia for a
past marked by a dark love of coal and the silence of canaries, time passing
by, and new love for a different world, with bird songs and wind
turbines ‘slicing clean paths to a future’.
A bitter fact is
that we are sabotaging oceans of all types.‘We are no longer interested in the sea’ suggests that we should be more
proactive, and ironically incites us to get rid of it, to fill completely the
sea with our waste, to solidify it. Similarly, our plastic waste is
agglomerating into oceans, entering into the food chain. ‘Swimming lesson’
stresses that much of this waste results from toys and hygiene and beauty
products, concluding that we absurdly ‘want to die clean’.Over North America, rare ‘Karner Blue’
butterflies named by Vladimir Nabokov once created ephemeral ‘landlocked seas’,
which have since ‘dried up’.
Are we acting as lice
on Gaia’s head, ‘millennium after millennium, drilling in (her) cranium’? She
does not see any option than to ask her hairdresser, Chaos, to shave her head…
The survival of our
civilization is intrinsically linked to the preservation of other forms of life
on Earth. The requiem for our civilization will be played in an annual
extinction concert on a piano, the keys of which will have been assembled from
the bones of extinct species by visionary students. Let us image the future, if
we cannot stabilize climate change. How will today’s children judge our
inaction? ‘21__’ explores mermaids of the future, swimming into submerged
remains of Manhattan buildings, while murmuring ‘We know this for a hundred
years, yet nobody did anything’.
The drama of irreversible
damage is illustrated in ‘The Dead Zone arranged by us’, where modern Capulets
and Montagues destroy fragile trees, leaving a silent and grey landscape of
devastation. Exposing the illusions of a technological development leaving only
rubble, ‘Wandering the Anthropocene’ targets greed as the root cause of
multiplied damage, and calls for a radical transformation building on ‘organic
motivation’. We are travelling, capturing snapshots of landscapes, but ‘The
Earth’s Plea’ is lucid, we are not aware of the deep destruction at play, we
are not aware of the close interplay between thriving ecosystems and thriving
human beings. ‘Only you hold the power to save us.’ This tragic disconnection
between the damage at play and the inertia of our society is sharply expressed
in ‘Hurtling’ written after hurricane Harvey, when the US Administrator
of the Environmental Protection Agency said in an interview that “the time to talk about climate change is not
I want to mention
here the first scientific study published by Isaac Held (MIT) last month in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA
assessing how torrential hurricane rains similar to those of Harvey would
evolve in Texas in a warmer world. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase,
the likelihood of such rains would increase from once in 100 years now to once
in 5.5 years by the end of this century.
How can we redesign
and reboot our system? Inspired by David Attenborough, ‘Planet Earth II’ offers
a list of inclusive options for a 2.0 version of our life on our planet, most
of which are unfortunately ‘currently out of stock.’
between science and society is illustrated by ‘Needlework’, a tale possibly
inspired by the ozone hole, and which I imagine taking place in Latin America.
If there is a hole in the sky, why could skilled ladies not simply stitch
it up? Why is it perceived to be a trick from a ‘gringo’? Ironically,
action to mitigate ozone destruction has been a remarkable success, with
recovery now expected to take place in the coming decades, following the
phase-out of industrial ozone-destructive substances.
How can we destroy
our home? ‘Zest’ provides a recipe to peel the Earth from its superficial but
vital shells, one by one, ending with a dire warning. The unintended
consequences of our way of life are sharply exposed by ‘Crab’, and its
reflections from a hermit crab living in Henderson Island, in the South
Pacific, one of the most remote places in the world.
What is the
geography of a changing climate? What is knowledge, and how to describe and
share it? How can we explain to school children that ‘the greatest losses start
in smaller’? How can we share the deep interconnections between economy,
climate change, and people? The need for introspection is brightly explored in
explores an apocalyptic return of Christ in ‘a murdered Earth’, destroyed by
climate change, ‘with no-one left to save except the jellyfish’, describing
hell as ‘a muddy, wet place’.In 2017
alone, more than 41 million people were affected by floods in South Asia.
Science is clear.
Our sources of energy and food, by releasing heat-trapping gases, are causing
global warming, rising seas, and already more extreme events such as heat waves
and heavy rainfall, threatening habitats and living conditions for us and for
many other species. There are multiple options to act now and build a
development which is more inclusive and resilient to climate change, while
decreasing emissions of greenhouse gases; but this needs to happen as quickly
as possible to reduce further losses and damage. Visions of futures that we do
not want can help accelerate this action.
I hope that you
will enjoy reading these 20 poems as much as I did.
I hope that you may also want to read some of our scientific
assessments, with all your indulgence for our jargon and style.
Illingworth is a Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at Manchester
Metropolitan University, where his research involves developing dialogue
between scientists and non-scientists. He mainly does this through the use of
poetry and games. As a spoken word artist, he has performed all over the world,
including the Edinburgh Fringe, the Green Man music festival, and with the
Royal Shakespeare Company. You can find out more about his research, and read
some of his poems by visiting his website: www.samillingworth.com
Dan Simpson is a poet, performer, and producer making highly engaging
and contemporary work on subjects including science and technology; history and
place; geek culture and videogames; people and poetry. Dan has appeared at
popular science events and talks, as well as Glastonbury, Roundhouse, and on
the BBC. A former Canterbury Laureate, his first collection is Applied Mathematics from Burning Eye
Books. He can be found online at www.dansimpsonpoet.co.uk.
Masson-Delmotte is a climate scientist based in Paris Saclay, France, and
currently co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the
working group on the physical science basis of climate change. Her own research
activity is linked to climate imprints in natural archives such as ice cores.
She is learning from past climate response to perturbations and past climate
variability to understand how the climate system operates, to test our ability
to model these responses, and therefore to inform on confidence in projections
of future climate change. She has also written books for children and for the
general public, as part of her diverse outreach activities. Her research and
engagement for outreach have been acknowledged by several prizes in France and