The Poetry Coalition, an alliance of more than 25 independent poetry organizations across the United States, will devote March through July 2021 to exploring the theme “It is burning./ It is dreaming./ It is waking up.: Poetry & Environmental Justice” in a series of programs in eleven cities that will reach an anticipated audience of more than 300,000 individuals nationwide.
Poetry Coalition members aim to demonstrate how poetry can positively provoke questions in their communities about environmental justice and spark increased engagement with this urgent topic. Each member organization has committed to offer programming that is accessible and that includes poets from the disability community, and of specific racial, ethnic, and gender identities, backgrounds, and communities.
This will be the fifth year Poetry Coalition members have come together to offer programming on a shared theme. Members presented events and publications on the theme “I am deliberate/ and afraid/ of nothing: Poetry & Protest” in March 2020; “What Is It, Then, Between Us?: Poetry & Democracy” in March 2019; and “Where My Dreaming and My Loving Live: Poetry & the Body” in March 2018.
Any and all literary organizations, presses, libraries, bookstores, and beyond are invited to offer their own March programming on the theme in support of and in partnership with the Poetry Coalition.
Find and promote your own projects with the hashtags #EnvironmentalJustice and #PoetryCoalition.
The Academy of American Poets in New York City, New York, dedicated four Saturdays of its popular Poem-a-Day series in March to poems that explore the theme of Poetry & Environmental Justice. This special series was curated by Linda Hogan, whose poem "Map" was used as inspiration for the 2021 Poetry Coalition theme. The three poems curated by Linda Hogan for this special series were "A Amazônia está queimando" by Ana Castillo, "Nimbawaadaan Akiing / I Dream a World" by Margaret Noodin, and "Anthropocene: A Dictionary" by Jake Skeets. Poem-a-Day is distributed to more than 500,000 readers each morning via newsletter, social media, and syndication, and it is published on Poets.org, which was redesigned in 2019 to ensure that it adheres to web accessibility standards. Each Poem-a-Day newsletter also features an audio recording of the poem.
In May, the Asian American Writers' Workshop in New York City, New York, convened We Have Lived This Ending Before, a virtual reading and conversation between poets, artists, and environmental justice activists Khairani Barokka and Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio. Working in London and Hawai'i, they create and study at the intersections of colonialism and environmental exploitation, and will perform from their work, and speak with the AAWW about what poets and artists can do in the face of our current climate crisis. Closed captioning was provided for accessibility.
The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and the National Student Poets Program in New York City, New York presented The World on Fire: Ecology, Poetry, and Disability Justice, an evening of readings and a dialogue among distinguished poets and young poets of tomorrow— a chorus of diverse voices exploring the transformative power of words at the intersection of disability and climate justice. The event was co-presented by Theater of War Productions, Burton Blatt Institute, Nine Mile Art Corp, and The International Writing Program. Closed captioning and ASL interpretation were provided. A recording of The World on Fire: Ecology, Poetry, and Disability Justice can be found here.
CantoMundo in New York City, New York hosted a virtual reading featuring poets Casandra López, Michelle Moncayo, Kimberly Reyes, and Raquel Salas Rivera, whose works explore the themes of poetry and environmental justice, on May 21. This event was inspired by Linda Hogan's "Map" and in collaboration with the Poetry Coalition. Closed captioning was provided. Founded at a kitchen table in 2009, CantoMundo is a national poetry organization that cultivates a community of Latinx poets through workshops, symposia, and public readings. A recording of the virtual reading with Casandra López, Michelle Moncayo, Kimberly Reyes, and Raquel Salas Rivera can be accessed here by entering the passcode "7%48Z9LV" when prompted.
Cave Canem and Lambda Literary in New York City, New York, commissioned dynamic new works centering the environment by poets Kay Ulanday Barrett, Bernard Ferguson, torrin a. greathouse, and Khadijah Queen. The poems have been collected in a digital folio that lives on each organization's respective website. The poets participated in a public reading, where they discussed their work and engaged in a dialogue about the event’s central theme.
The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark, New Jersey, presented a free screening of The Sacrifice Zone followed by poetry and discussion about environmental justice featuring Maria Lopez-Nuñez, Dr. Jalonne White-Newsome, filmmaker Julie Winokur, and poets Camille T. Dungy and Marina Carreira. A recording of the discussion can be accessed here.
In-Na-Po, Indigenous Nations Poets, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, partnered with Kenyon Review to present a virtual reading and conversation with Linda Hogan. The April 13th event featured work from Hogan’s recent book A History of Kindness (Torrey House Press, 2020), and the author will discuss her life-long literary commitment to environmental causes. In addition, In-Na-Po invited video poem submissions from Indigenous Youth Poets around the theme of environmental justice. A selection was included in a virtual event and others were spotlighted on the In-Na-Po webpage.
Kundiman in New York City, New York, hosted its fifth annual Postcard Project, where fellows sent each other handwritten postcards each day of the month of March. Weekly writing prompts and suggested readings inspired by the theme Poetry & Environmental Justice were sent to participants and posted on social media, and the wider community was encouraged to join in writing and sending postcards. Images of postcards from the community were collected, shared on social media, and archived on their webpage after the project’s conclusion.
Letras Latinas at the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies in Notre Dame, Indiana, in partnership with the Poets Against Walls collective, hosted a virtual public dialogue and reading with Michelle Otero and Valerie Martínez, recent Poets Laureate of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, NM. A recording of the dialogue and reading can be found here and is accessible until April 15th. In addition, Dr. Grisel Y. Acosta brought together students from the Bronx Community College-CUNY Geological Agriculture (GeoAg) Program and students from the Bronx arts activist organization, the DreamYard Project, to write poetry in a workshop headed by acclaimed poet Peggy Robles-Alvarado. The workshop will be held in March and will culminate in a reading in April. Closed captioning will be provided.
Mass Poetry in Boston, Massachusetts, presented a series of virtual writing workshops exploring the theme of Poetry & Environmental justice with poets Elizabeth Bradfield, Eleni Sikelianos, Lucía Hinojosa, devorah major, and Everett Hoagland where participants can create works of ecopoetry and engage in discussions around water and environmental justice. Workshop participants submitted their final work to a Raining Poetry contest and the winning poets had their poem or an excerpt of their poem installed in the pavement surrounding the Center for Creative Writing, Mass Poetry's new home, for its grand opening.
Mizna of Saint Paul, Minnesota, presented an environmental justice-themed reading that featured Samiya Bashir, Leila Chatti, and Amir Rabiyah. This reading was live-captioned in English, and an accessible .pdf of poems is available to follow during the event. The full program was made available for viewing post-event.
O, Miami in Miami, Florida, collaborated with educators Raquel Quinones and Donnie Welch and The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center to present a climate justice-focused workshop series for neurodiverse youth at Brucie Ball Educational Center. Donnie and Raquel produced a hands-on original lesson plan blending art, storytelling, and ecological education about native and invasive species. Students visited The MSD Biscayne Nature Center for a socially-distanced open-air field trip where they engaged in the meaningful action of replanting native species in key locations in Miami-Dade County. At the end of the experience, each student learned how to use poetry as a means to interact with the environment, contributing to a larger effort in Miami to plant native species as a natural defense against climate change-induced sea level rise.
The Poetry Center in San Francisco, California presented a series of programs across the country during March and April around this shared topic. On April 17, four poets, Ed Roberson, Tiffany Higgins, Eli Clare, and Lehua M. Taitano, whose work is recognized for its address to ideas of justice, to our global climate crisis, and to the effects of colonialism and racial capitalism, read from their work and joined in conversation with one another.
Poetry Foundation in Chicago, Illinois, hosted a reading with Kay Ulanday Barrett and Petra Kuppers, followed by a moderated discussion with Naomi Ortiz centering the intersection of disability justice and ecopoetics. How can access culture further the project of mutually sustaining care, for each other, kin species, and the planet?
The Poetry Project in New York City, New York, presented: tránsitos del sueño del istmo con Tierra Narrative / isthmus dream transits with Tierra Narrative.
Como encarnación del sueño, ¿cómo puede la poesía alterar nuestras relaciones con las geografías coloniales y sus residuos espectrales? Este evento reúne a tres poetas cuyas obras trazan cartografías alternas de Centroamérica y el Caribe a través del trabajo onírico y revisiones de la historia, la ascendencia y el tiempo. Participantes: Shyanne Figueroa Bennett (Estados Unidos); Edgar García (Estados Unidos); Wingston González (Guatemala).
As an embodiment of dreaming, how can poetry alter our relationships to colonial geographies and their spectral residues? This reading and following conversation (moderated by curatorial fellows from Tierra Narrative) brought together three poets whose works trace alternate cartographies of Central America and the Caribbean through dream-work and re-visions of history, ancestry and time. Featuring readings by: Shyanne Figueroa Bennett (US), Edgar García (US), and Wingston Gonzalez (Guatemala).
The Poetry Society of America in New York City, New York, in partnership with Greenpeace USA, presented a web feature with contemporary poets writing brief essays on a poem that has impacted their understanding of environmental justice. Poets included Dan Chiasson, Allison Hedge Coke, Anaïs Duplan, Shara McCallum, Craig Santos Perez, Amber Flora Thomas, among others.
Split This Rock in Washington, D.C., offered curated poems through its Poem of the Week Series, hosted two free virtual writing workshops, and spotlighted Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology which was published through its Eco-Justice Project in March 2018. Kimberly Blaeser offered a workshop titled "Of Science and Kinship: Indigenous Geopoetics" on March 3. Naomi Ortiz offered a workshop titled "Digesting What’s in the Way" focused on disability justice and eco-justice on March 17. Split This Rock's workshops for the month of April were offering live captioning and ASL interpretation, along with screen sharing of text read in the workshop. Poem of the Week featured an audio recording to accompany the text.
Urban Word and the National Youth Poet Laureate Program in New York City, New York, created original poems to address environmental justice, with lines that were featured on original artwork/collage by Mer Young. These poets also performed these poems at the National Youth Poet Laureate Commencement in May 2021.
The Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio was proud to promote three projects that explore the intersections of poetry and environmental justice throughout the month of March: Earth Stanzas, Vote the Earth, and River Stanzas. The Wick Poetry Center hosted a series of interactive online activities and events free and open to all. The Center also developed a series of digital tools to increase the reach and accessibility of the Environmental Education Center at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, one of the nation’s most visited national parks.
The Wick Poetry Center endeavors to make its digital tools, online experiences, and websites accessible and to center the work of BIPOC poets. Closed captioning was provided for all virtual events
Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, hosted a panel discussion and a reading on the topic of Poetry & Environmental Justice featuring poets Dr. Craig Santos Perez, Mona Lisa Saloy, and Brian Teare. On Thursday, the panel discussion focused on issues surrounding the climate crisis and their intersection with writing and creative practice, and on Friday the poets gave a reading. Both events concluded with a Q+A. A live ASL interpreter was present and captioning was provided. Woodland Pattern also produced a pamphlet of the poets' work to commemorate the program.
As part of their monthly Under 21 Open Mic series in collaboration with Chapter 510, Youth Speaks in San Francisco, California, dedicated its Friday, April 2nd show to environmental justice. The open mic featured Isha Clarke, a multidisciplinary Oakland artist and environmental activist, and was open to all participants age 21 and under, regardless of geography. A recording of the event can be found here and will be accessible throughout April.
Zoeglossia, a national literary organization seeking to pioneer a new, inclusive space for poets with disabilities, presented a panel on Larry Eigner (1927-1996), a Jewish poet who is associated with the Black Mountain School. Eigner, who had severe cerebral palsy, began his interest in environmentalism in the early 1960s after reading Rachel Carson. This panel included Eigner scholars Jonathan Skinner, George Hart, and Cecil Giscombe, moderated by Eigner's biographer, Jennifer Bartlett. Eigner, who spent much of his time at home in Swampscott, MA is a critical poet in this moment. Due to the pandemic, we are all forced to reconsider time, seasons, and nature from our windows as Eigner spent his entire life.