Poetry for the Planet: An Anthology of Imagined Futures. Edited by Julia Kaylock & Denise O’Hagan. Litoria Press 2021 was launched remotely by Amanda Anastasi on 28 October 2021
Today’s ecopoetry, as opposed to the nature poetry of times gone by, reflects the friction and the complex relationship between humans and nature. Our poems live in a place where something is out of joint, whether it be addressed implicitly or directly. Ecosystems are out of sync and seasons are shifting as a result of the changing climate and due to the heavy foot of humanity. It is impossible for us to write about the planet in the same way as Keats or Wordsworth or Blake, as the climate crisis is a backdrop to all that we write and causes a shake to our poetic voices. Our poetry is becoming as confronting as the increasing inhospitableness of the planet itself.
In many of the poems in Poetry for the Planet, there is the depicting of nature in human-like terms. This poetic device reflects both the human-centricity of our relations to nature and also shows our deep interconnectedness with it; that when we hurt nature, we hurt ourselves. I believe our understanding of this idea is deepening every day. As the result of colonialism and western religious dominance and the ever-accelerating industrial revolution, this placing of western man as master of the earth has, quite frankly, failed.
We write – we have always written – as a species who has over centuries aimed to elevate itself over nature. We write about our planet now with a renewed consciousness. However, the eye and the hand that is capturing it also has a hand in destroying it. Each one of us – some in very small and some in large ways, some knowing and unknowing, some thinking and unthinking – are contributing to it. The poet cannot escape this uncomfortable truth as we do not keep our eyes closed and are especially in tune to our own complex position. However, we aim to express what others may find difficult to articulate in the anthropocene. Perhaps poetry is, as Mark Tredinnick alludes to in his introduction to this anthology, the most fitting genre to articulate the climate crisis. Perhaps, poetry will or could be the rallying cry in this great transition that we have no choice now but to undertake.
As the CEO of the Australian Conversation Foundation, Kelly O’Shanassy, stated in the Foreword of this anthology: “we cannot shy away from the grim reality we face.” As poets, we must hold up a mirror to the times and its detail, even if it hurts to look at it. To do anything else would be disingenuous and a form of distraction, and we certainly do not need more looking away. Acknowledging our reality with courage is an important step to achieving the kind of action that is required, and there are many poems in this anthology that take an unflinching view of climate futures based on our current trajectory.
How is poetry relevant in these times, many may ask. It should be remembered that in order to write or read poetry, it requires one to stop, observe and think deeply. This practice is a fitting prelude to any transformative act – to pause business as usual, to look at ourselves and also beyond ourselves with open and curious eyes; to use all our faculties to make sense of the world as it currently is and imagine what it could be. Our poetry can take a role in stimulating ideas and presenting versions of the future and ways forward, especially in a country led by a government that hides from action and shrinks from progress. If our leaders cannot find the words, the rest of us must.
As Australians, we are on the frontline of climate change and our writings are an important record of this challenging time. In addition, these poems prompt us to new ways of seeing. I have a deep appreciation for the important, timely and moving poems that make up Poetry for the Planet and the way poets have come together to write about this. I hope this book makes its way into many hands, not just within Australia and New Zealand but in many other parts of the world.
– Amanda Anastasi
Amanda Anastasi is a Melbourne poet whose work has been published as locally as the Artist’s Lane walls in Windsor to The Massachusetts Review in the US, and is the convener of one of Melbourne’s longest-running poetry readings, La Mama Poetica. Amanda is the author of ‘2012 and other poems’ and the co-author of The Silences (Eaglemont Press, 2016). Her latest poetry collection is the The Inheritors (Black Pepper Publishing, 2021). Amanda’s work has been published in Best Australian Science Writing, Australian Poetry Journal, Griffith Review, Right Now and FourW: New Writing, among other places. She is currently Poet in Residence at the Monash Climate Change Communications Research Hub, where she is writing poetry to raise awareness on ecological issues and the climate crisis.
Poetry for the Planet: An Anthology of Imagined Futures is available from Rochford Cottage Poetry and Small Press Bookshop