Article

Poetry for the planet:
Words that move us

Poetry for the planet:
Words that move us

Words: Anne-Marie Hoeve

Video: Dan Lin Media, LLC.

When it comes to getting the word out on protecting the environment we often think of activists, scientists or journalists first. But now poets too are wielding their literary prowess to tackle this topic – speaking to our emotions.

Words in poems are not like regular words. Strung together in rhythms and sounds, line by line, they come to life, conjuring a shared experience and bringing it close. We don’t just read these words. We feel them. That is their power. And it is a power increasingly being harnessed in a genre known as eco-poetry.

Beyond honouring nature for the gift that it is, the three eco-poems below call on us to take notice of what’s at stake. Written by indigenous voices, they amplify the reality of those most affected. In sharing these words, their message resonates across oceans and continents, landing where it has the most impact – our heart.

Rise: From one island to another

By Kathy Jetnil Kijiner and Aka Niviȃna

Kathy Jetnil Kijiner is a poet from the Marshall Islands. Aka Niviȃna is from Greenland – the world’s largest island. Although separated by entire oceans, they joined forces to write this poem together in 2018, highlighting the plight of their people and appealing to us for solutions.

Rise: From one island to another. Read the full poem here.

“Sister of ice and snow
I’m coming to you
from the land of my ancestors
From atolls, sunken volcanoes-undersea descent of sleeping giants”

Rise: From one island to another

Photo: Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek / Connected Archives

Love Poem in a Time of Climate Change (Sonnet XVII)

after Pablo Neruda
By Craig Santos Perez

I don’t love you as if you were rare earth metals, diamonds,
or reserves of crude oil that propagate war;
I love you as one loves the most vulnerable species:
urgently, between the habitat and its loss.

I love you as the seed that doesn’t sprout but carries
the heritage of our roots, secured, within a vault,
and thanks to your love the organic taste that ripens
from the fruit still lives sweetly on my tongue.

I love you without knowing how, or when, this world will end.
I love you naturally, without pesticides or opioids.
I love you like this because we won’t survive any other way.

except in this form, in which humans and nature are kin,
so close that your emissions of carbon are mine,
so close that your sea rises with my heat.

Photo: Ira Grünberger / Connected Archives

Carrying Our Words

By Ofelia Zepeda

We travel carrying our words.
We arrive at the ocean.
With our words we are able to speak
of the sounds of thunderous waves.
We speak of how majestic it is,
of the ocean power that gifts us songs.
We sing of our respect
And call it our relative.

Translated into English from O’odham by the poet.

More eco-poetry

Dive into this genre with the inspiring anthology 100 Poems to Save the Earth, from IPG Books.

ORDER IT HERE

Why not try writing your own eco-poetry? Explore our shifting relationship with the Earth and the role of eco-poetry in a new online course from CityLit in London.

ONLINE COURSE
0:00