earthweal weekly challenge: FICTION? DON’T BE A STRANGER!


Hi, this is Jim Feeney (, Brendan and Sherry have kindly allowed me to guest host for this week’s weekly challenge, so here goes…

Every October, Vancouver has a Writers Festival; it’s part of a string of festivals that starts with the  jazz festival in June, then  folk, blues, film, writers in that order. This year the music festivals were cancelled but the film festival and the writer’s festival went ahead. The writer’s festival was an online event, Zoom mostly, and whereas it wasn’t quite the same as previous years, it was in some ways a more intimate experience.

One of the standouts for me was a panel discussion led by Marsha Lederman with the authors Seth Klein, Shaena Lambert and Amin Maalouf. The climate crisis or the climate emergency was at the center of the discussion.  Seth Klein in his book A Good War looks at how governments respond in war time and postulates that the same kind of action is required to combat climate change. He makes the interesting point that all governments at the moment are essentially climate change deniers because the actions they are taking are insufficient. In a time of crisis or war, governments should spend what is required and should mandate change. Sheena Lambert’s book Petra is a fictionalized account of the life of Germany’s first Green Party leader and looks at the role of activism in taking on climate change. Amin Maalouf, in his book Adrift, examines how we got to where we are today, the decline of postwar socialism and the rise of capitalism. When asked what he thought the role of the writer, the novelist, the poet, the artist is, today, Amin replied that the role of the artist is to provide a moral compass.

The festival’s emphasis as always was on fiction, although poetry and non-fiction had a place. It struck me, listening to novelists talk, that they are very courageous and optimistic people; they start out with an idea and a number of years later after many re-writes, arrive at the finished product. That’s a lot of time alone in a room. Then they have to try to get that product published. Finding a character’s voice was mentioned numerous times by the novelists in the festival as being a key element in driving the novel forward. This got me thinking, poets tend to write from the view point of the poet, from a personal view point; they may create alter egos, but they rarely create fictional characters. I know, that’s a generalization, and to be honest my knowledge of poets and poetry is less than encyclopedic, so correct me if I’m wrong.  Song writers on the other hand, do it a lot — “The Universal Soldier “ by Buffy Sainte Marie, “Downbound Train” by Bruce Springsteen for example — the list is long.

So what’s the CHALLENGE?

THE CHALLENGE is to write a poem from the point of view of someone who is a climate change denier or a climate solution denier or someone who just doesn’t care because they won’t be around when it happens. Choose any form you like, or go with free verse. Create a fictional character, preferably, because that’s more fun and is liberating. the key is to provide some insight into what makes the character tick, how they arrived at that point of view.  An out of work pipe welder, for example, will have a completely different view of oil pipelines than a climate activist. What’s the character’s motivation — self- interest, livelihood, fear, dislike of liberals, or just likes his/her car? You can make the character sympathetic or not. Use satire if you want, but remember there’s a thin line between satire and snark, a line I’ve crossed many times.  You don’t have to necessarily mention climate change in the poem, it’s enough to allude to it or create a profile of a character who would have climate change denial as part of his/her world view.

Good luck! I look forward to reading your poems!



6 thoughts on “earthweal weekly challenge: FICTION? DON’T BE A STRANGER!

  1. I love the idea that poets provide a moral compass. That is inspiring. This is a very cool prompt, Jim! We all know some deniers. It will be a stretch for me to write in that voice, but I will give it a go!


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