Poetry Organizations from Across the United States Join Together to Offer Programs on the Theme “It is burning./ It is dreaming./ It is waking up.: Poetry & Environmental Justice”

New York, NY (March 11, 2021)— This year, the more than 25 organizations nationwide that compose the Poetry Coalition will launch It is burning./ It is dreaming./ It is waking up.: Poetry & Environmental Justice, the coalition’s fifth annual programming initiative. For this collaborative effort, the organizations will offer a range of virtual programs that speak to this timely theme. This programming is made possible in part by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation which were secured by the Academy of American Poets. 

The line “It is burning./ It is dreaming./ It is waking up.” is from the poem “Map” by Linda Hogan

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.

All organizations and others interested are invited to program on this theme in 2021 and share their efforts using the hashtags #EnvironmentalJustice and #PoetryCoalition

Here’s a look at some of the programs that will take place across the country this year:

The Academy of American Poets in New York City, New York, is dedicating four Saturdays of its popular Poem-a-Day series in March 2021 to poems that explore the theme of Poetry & Environmental Justice. This special series will be curated by Linda Hogan, whose poem "Map" was used as inspiration for the 2021 Poetry Coalition theme. 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.

This April, the Asian American Writers' Workshop in New York City, New York, will convene 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. This event will be streamed on the AAWW YouTube page on May 4, 2021 at 7 p.m. EST and closed captioning will be provided for accessibility.

The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and the National Student Poets Program in New York City, New York will present on March 31, 2021, The World on Fire: Ecology, Poetry, and Disability Justice, which will be 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 is co-presented by Theater of War Productions, Burton Blatt Institute, Nine Mile Art Corp, and The International Writing Program. Closed captioning will be provided.

Beyond Baroque in Los Angeles, CA will host a series of free workshops in June 2021, each focused on the theme of Poetry & Environmental Justice. More information will be available at https://www.beyondbaroque.org/.

CantoMundo will host a virtual reading on May 21 featuring four poets, Casandra López, Michelle Moncayo, Kimberly Reyes, and Raquel Salas Rivera, whose works explore the themes of poetry and environmental justice. This event is inspired by Linda Hogan's "Map" and in collaboration with the Poetry Coalition and will be open to the public. Closed captioning will be 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.

Cave Canem Foundation and Lambda Literary in New York City, New York, are commissioning dynamic new works centering the environment by poets Kay Ulanday Barrett, Bernard Ferguson, torrin a. greathouse, and Khadijah Queen. The poems will be collected in a digital folio that will live on each organization's respective website. The poets will participate in a public reading, where they discuss their work and engage in a dialogue about the event’s central theme.

In-Na-Po, Indigenous Nations Poets, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is partnering with Kenyon Review to present a virtual reading and conversation with Linda Hogan. The April 13, 2021 event will feature 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 is inviting video poem submissions from Indigenous Youth Poets around the theme of environmental justice. A selection will be included in a virtual event and others will be spotlighted on the In-Na-Po webpage. 

Kundiman in New York City, New York, is hosting its fifth annual Postcard Project, where fellows will send each other handwritten postcards each day of the month. Weekly writing prompts and suggested reading inspired by the theme Poetry & Environmental Justice will be sent to participants and posted on social media, and the wider community will be encouraged to join in writing and sending postcards. Images of postcards from the community will be collected, shared on social media, and archived on their webpage after the project’s conclusion. Anyone can join in by writing and sending a postcard this month, engaging in one of Kundiman's Poetry & Environmental Justice prompts, or using the hashtag #kundimanpostcards.

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, will host a virtual public dialogue and reading on March 31, 2021 with Michelle Otero and Emmy Pérez, recent Poets Laureate of Albuquerque, NM and the state of Texas. In addition, Dr. Grisel Y. Acosta is bringing 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, will present 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 will submit their final work to a Raining Poetry contest and the winning poets will have 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 later this year.

O, Miami in Miami, Florida, is collaborating 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 will produce a hands-on original lesson plan blending art, storytelling, and ecological education about native and invasive species. Students will visit The MSD Biscayne Nature Center for a socially-distanced open-air field trip where they will engage in the meaningful action of replanting native species in key locations in Miami-Dade County. At the end of the experience, each student will have used poetry as a means to interact with the environment, and they will have contributed to a larger effort in Miami to plant native species as a natural defense against climate change-induced sea level rise.

Poetry Foundation in Chicago, Illinois, will host a reading with Kay Ulanday Barrett and Petra Kuppers, followed by a moderated discussion with Naomi Ortiz centering the intersection of disability justice and eco-poetics. 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, will present: tránsitos del sueño del istmo con Tierra Narrative / isthmus dream transits with Tierra Narrative on Thursday, March 18, 2021.

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) brings 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, will present a web feature with contemporary poets writing brief essays on a poem that has impacted their understanding of environmental justice. Poets include Dan Chiasson, Allison Hedge Coke, Anaïs Duplan, Shara McCallum, Craig Santos Perez, Amber Flora Thomas, among others.

Split This Rock in Washington, D.C., will offer curated poems through its Poem of the Week Series, host two free virtual writing workshops, and spotlight Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology which was published through its Eco-Justice Project in March 2018. Kimberly Blaeser will offer a workshop titled "Of Science and Kinship: Indigenous Geopoetics" on March 3. Naomi Ortiz will offer a workshop titled "Digesting What’s in the Way" focused on disability justice and eco-justice on March 17, 2021. Split This Rock's workshops this month are offering live captioning and ASL interpretation, along with screen sharing of text read in the workshop. Poem of the Week features an audio recording to accompany the text.

Urban Word and the National Youth Poet Laureate Program in New York City, New York, have created original poems to address environmental justice, with lines that will be featured on original artwork/collage by Mer Young. These poets will also perform these poems at the National Youth Poet Laureate Commencement in May 2021.

The Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio is 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 will host a series of interactive online activities and events free and open to all. The Center is also excited to be developing 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 will be provided for all virtual events.

Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, will host 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 will focus on issues surrounding the climate crisis and their intersection with writing and creative practice, and on Friday the poets will give a reading. Both events will conclude with a Q+A. A live ASL interpreter will be present, and captioning will be provided. Woodland Pattern will also be producing 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, will dedicate its Friday, April 2nd show to environmental justice. The open mic will feature Isha Clarke, a multidisciplinary Oakland artist and environmental activist, and is open to all participants age 21 and under, regardless of geography.

Zoeglossia, a national literary organization seeking to pioneer a new, inclusive space for poets with disabilities, will present a panel on Larry Eigner (1927-1996), a Jewish poet who is associated with the Black Mountain School, on March 30, at a time to be determined. Eigner, who had severe cerebral palsy, began his interest in environmentalism in the early 1960s after reading Rachel Carson. This panel includes 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.

About the Poetry Coalition

Launched in 2016, the Poetry Coalition is a national alliance of independent organizations dedicated to working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds. The Poetry Coalition and its programmatic efforts are supported by a major grant to the Academy of American Poets from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

About the Academy of American Poets

The Academy of American Poets is the nation’s leading champion of poets and poetry with supporters in all fifty states. Founded in 1934, the organization annually awards more funds to individual poets than any other organization through its prize program, giving a total of $1,250,000 to more than 200 poets at various stages of their careers. The Academy also produces Poets.org, the world’s largest publicly funded website for poets and poetry; originated and organizes National Poetry Month; publishes the popular Poem-a-Day series and American Poets magazine; provides award-winning resources to K–12 educators, including the Teach This Poem series; hosts an annual series of poetry readings and special events; and coordinates a national Poetry Coalition working together to promote the value poets bring to the country’s culture.