Reports on the state of the planet’s future can sound like something from dystopian science fiction.
Unquestionably, distress signals are flashing throughout nature and society, from drought, sea level rise, and unrelenting increases in temperatures to expanded refugee crisis, conflict, and dislocation.
–Paul Hawkin in Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, page xi
But this is not the end of the story, or it doesn’t have to be. What if climate change, while being a serious threat, was also an invitation? Or as Paul Hawkin describes it “a pathway that awakens creativity, compassion, and genius.” Small personal shifts–like Tony Wolk bicycling to work or the evening walks that Ray Bradbury’s pedestrian takes–can make a difference.
Take the First Step
This spring Ecochallenge and the Northwest Earth Institute sponsored a challenge to engage people’s ingenuity and creativity as they respond to climate change. The spring challenge is over, but you can still access a wealth of information and encouragement on their site (and consider joining their next challenge this fall). You can build community as you learn innovative ways to shift your transportation and food choices (believe it or not, food choices are the 2nd most powerful opportunity for impact, of the top 100 solutions!).
Change always puts us closer to our learning edge, and that can sometimes be uncomfortable. These shifts toward a sustainable future highlight what Forrest Gander calls, “the economy of interrelationship between human and non-human realms.”
Interrelationship is what poetry is made of. Metaphors work by connecting things that seem at face value to not be connected. Haiku, which relies on the simple image rather than metaphor, deeply connects human observation and feeling to the rest of the natural world, often drawing our attention to a surprising interrelationship.
Haiku “Eco” Poems
With my father
I would look out at dawn
over green fields.
a line borrowed
from another poet
look at the red throat
of the hummingbird—then tell
your story again
A deep gorge…
some of the silence
This week try writing about the ways the world, either animate or inanimate, entwines with what is most human and how that changes us. This might be a poem that relies on metaphor, a haiku, or even a paragraph or two of a longer story. Consider adding a sci-fi twist, regardless of the form you choose.
Recently, we wrote about setting and how poems can transport us. Rick Maxon shared two extended pieces that embodied a sense of place. Let’s ride the “promise / of a road” to “Big Sur.”
Photo by Nicolas Raymond, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Kortney Garrison.
Check out our patron-only writing & publishing opportunities!
- Poetry Prompt: Fireworks, Sparkles & Speckles - July 2, 2018
- Writing Prompt: Science Fiction and Ecopoetry - June 25, 2018
- Poetry Prompt: Science Fiction with Ray Bradbury - June 18, 2018
At Big Sur
Photograph of you, light blazer,
turtleneck, blue jeans, light hair,
and off your left shoulder,
where your hair falls on a lapel,
is the Pacific Ocean and a gray sky.
It is not a melancholy sky. The ocean
too is gray, with a hint of aquamarine
swimming to the surface.
They are like two mirrors reflecting
one another, each holding both an image
and the reality of the image as its own.
Here is the mystery of this day:
Where is the small rock in the mirror
of the sky, the blemish with the spume of wave,
near the edge of what we see?
I say mirrors. And if you told me,
the sky I see is not the sky,
I would say, enough of that! Look,
those enduring tufts of grass stand tall,
even though the vast Pacific seems to lay
its miles of rolling in a gathering of cotton swirl along their petioles.
And the grass, with its panne embossing
on the raw cocoa silk of rock at the woman’s feet,
see how it gathers effortlessly beneath
the flame-stitch organza trim of alfilaria;
and the broach of quartz, so elegant
the way it nearly escapes the observer entirely.
My gaze falls then on your left boot,
fashionably cinnabar in this light,
in a perfect downward slope,
and expanding beyond all of this:
the faux-verdigris of the Pacific,
the fire and velvet of the earth’s
early evening camisole,
and the uncalculated batting of your lashes
over the ocean’s eye
as it gazes surreptitiously on you balanced
like sunlight on the pied boulders.
You will say this too is not the truth,
how your face is not the sun you wear
around your neck, your hair the wave-form
of the wind and not the wind itself, perfect in its disregard,
circling your right eye
that sees me for the instant of a shutter.
Almost unnoticed is the road behind you,
only a dash of road in the background
of your right shoulder, and the promise
of a road, so subtle in the cliffs beyond.
It is the road that led me here to this timeless day,
watching your smile, the beautiful
disorder in the cuff of your jeans, frayed like tuft grass.
Enough of this, you say!
But I will see the heart of you, a lioness in a waking stretch,
here or in some tropic isle,
where you dance in tiered chiffon, or in white cotton
with a deck of cards, barefoot on a Sunday much like this.
The promise turns its mysterious way
along these ancient cliffs,
but what I see and I will remember always
is the pre-eminence of you in the midst of splendor.