Ansel Adams, Church, Taos Pueblo, 1942


earthweal weekly challenge
by Joy Ann Jones (hedgewitch)

Greetings and welcome to earthweal, where I have been invited to usher in All Hallows with a challenge featuring the first poems we as writers took to heart. These are the poems that opened our eyes to poetry, poems that even when we have assimilated or outgrown them, still show up under every word we write and forever shape our own voice, our own points of view, our perceptions of what poetry is, how we access it, and the unique eye it gives us for the world inside and around us.

A discussion of poetic influences may seem a bit removed from the wider mission that earthweal fosters, that of speaking out in concern and in care for the well-being of our threatened planet , but at earthweal I have always found a reverence for the wild, for what still lives free , both in the natural world, and  in ourselves. That first voice we find so often depends on an eye for what is wild within us and that is the very eye that can give us an affinity to all wild things as we grow, bringing us out from a juvenile world of separation to a more mature one of inclusion.

Today we’re going to look back at our younger selves, back to the first poems that made us notice them, and see where they have taken us. I will give some examples from my own story, but of course, each of our stories begins in a unique place which this challenge asks you to revisit.

When I was roughly 8 years old, I encountered my own first poem. I don’t think anyone who’s read my poetry will be surprised to learn it was a ghost story, or that it was written in a rhyming ballad form. My Swedish immigrant grandparents had lovingly put their pennies together to buy me a set of Childcraft Encyclopedias, and I happily read many of the volumes cover to cover, particularly those on literature, myth, history and archeology.  What I read there certainly shaped both my poetic eye and who I am today. Below is a page from the 1954 edition of Childcraft with a brief but characteristic excerpt from my very first favorite poem, one that with its romantic hero, vivid, dramatic language and tragic heroine a shy, introverted and lonely child surrounded by busy adults could only be completely captivated  by:



If you wish, you can read the entire poem where ‘Bess the landlord’s daughter’ brings about her own death with the musket beneath her breast  here. {link}

As time went on, I moved to more sophisticated writings, but always I’ve been drawn back to the fantastic and the fated , the wild myth, the  fairy tale with a grim ending, the ghost story or the murder ballad, such as this one by Keats :


John Keats

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
       Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
       And no birds sing.

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
       So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
       And the harvest’s done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
       With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
       Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
       Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
       And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
       And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
       And made sweet moan

I set her on my pacing steed,
       And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
       A faery’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
       And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
       ‘I love thee true’.

She took me to her Elfin grot,
       And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
       With kisses four.

And there she lullèd me asleep,
       And there I dreamed—Ah! woe betide!—
The latest dream I ever dreamt
       On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
       Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
       Thee hath in thrall!’

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
       With horrid warning gapèd wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
       On the cold hill’s side.

And this is why I sojourn here,
       Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
       And no birds sing.

Paramount among my early influences however, (and in keeping with the approach of All Hallows) was Edgar Allan Poe, who famously said,  ” “The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.” and my teenage self agreed with him, never more so than in this atmospheric poem of lost love, and one which always breathes out to me the underlying death of the natural world and its reflection in ourselves implicit in the coming of autumn:


Edgar Allan Poe

The skies they were ashen and sober;
      The leaves they were crispéd and sere—
      The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
      Of my most immemorial year;
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
      In the misty mid region of Weir—
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
      In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

Here once, through an alley Titanic,
      Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul—
      Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
These were days when my heart was volcanic
      As the scoriac rivers that roll—
      As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
      In the ultimate climes of the pole—
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
      In the realms of the boreal pole.

Our talk had been serious and sober,
      But our thoughts they were palsied and sere—
      Our memories were treacherous and sere—
For we knew not the month was October,
      And we marked not the night of the year—
      (Ah, night of all nights in the year!)
We noted not the dim lake of Auber—
      (Though once we had journeyed down here)—
We remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
      Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

And now, as the night was senescent
      And star-dials pointed to morn—
      As the star-dials hinted of morn—
At the end of our path a liquescent
      And nebulous lustre was born,
Out of which a miraculous crescent
      Arose with a duplicate horn—
Astarte’s bediamonded crescent
      Distinct with its duplicate horn.

And I said—”She is warmer than Dian:
      She rolls through an ether of sighs—
      She revels in a region of sighs:
She has seen that the tears are not dry on
      These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
And has come past the stars of the Lion
      To point us the path to the skies—
      To the Lethean peace of the skies—
Come up, in despite of the Lion,
      To shine on us with her bright eyes—
Come up through the lair of the Lion,
      With love in her luminous eyes.” ..

….Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
      And tempted her out of her gloom—
      And conquered her scruples and gloom:
And we passed to the end of the vista,
      But were stopped by the door of a tomb—
      By the door of a legended tomb;
And I said—”What is written, sweet sister,
      On the door of this legended tomb?”
      She replied—”Ulalume—Ulalume—
      ‘Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!”

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
      As the leaves that were crispèd and sere—
      As the leaves that were withering and sere,
And I cried—”It was surely October
      On this very night of last year
      That I journeyed—I journeyed down here—
      That I brought a dread burden down here—

      On this night of all nights in the year,
      Oh, what demon has tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber—
      This misty mid region of Weir—
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber—
      In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.”

I will leave you with one more poem from my mature years that opened my inner eye to the wildness — and the order — inherent in myself, the world, and others:


Wallace Stevens

She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.

The sea was not a mask. No more was she.
The song and water were not medleyed sound
Even if what she sang was what she heard,
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
But it was she and not the sea we heard.

For she was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew
It was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang.

If it was only the dark voice of the sea
That rose, or even colored by many waves;
If it was only the outer voice of sky
And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
However clear, it would have been deep air,
The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
Repeated in a summer without end
And sound alone. But it was more than that,
More even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea.

                           It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing.
She measured to the hour its solitude.
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we,
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As the night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker’s rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

So, what are the first words that gave you that “..maker’s rage to order words..”? Your challenge is to look back to the first poems that helped you to find your own inner eye and voice, and write about it. Perhaps it was the poem you reluctantly read as an assignment and came to love, or one that was read to you by someone as a child. Or later, that poem that you discovered yourself that spoke loudly in your mind: “This is important. This is what I want to carry, to live and to write.” Feel free to post an older poem if it comes directly from that early eye, or to write about the poet who inspired you, or in a format that reflects your own interpretation of it. This is all about how our first poems become part of our first voices, and how those voices are always with us because they have become part of our own. If you can include an echo of the natural world, even if it’s only the wind as a torrent of darkness, that will be all to the good, but is not mandatory.

— Joy



untitled marina by Zdzlaw Beksinksi

earthweal open link weekend #142


Greetings voyagers, and welcome to open link weekend #142 at earthweal. Share a favorite poem or two and then visit your fellow linkers to comment.

The link forum is open until midnight Sunday, when Hedgewitch brews up an All Hallows challenge she titles “First Poems.” You won’t want to miss it!

Happy linking!





Greetings all,

It’s been great having other voices take over the helm these past several weeks. Thanks to Sherry for “Wild Souls” and Lindi for her first earthweal challenge “Enactivism and The Poetry of Becoming.” You both inspired many fresh stirrings of poetry! And why stop there? Next week Hedgewitch makes her first appearance at earthweal helm with an All Hallows challenge sure to creak open the old doors. Can’t wait! And if any other of you would like to helm an earth poetry challenge of your own making, message me at We’d love to have you!

As this is the week before Halloween, I thought we might prep the cauldron with kindling gathered from the forest of light and shadow.

As this is the week before Halloween, I thought we might prep the cauldron with kindling gathered from the forest of light and shadow.


How shall we embark? An aboriginal tale tells us the road into this forest is paved like a Milky Way:

Before that sparkling galaxy of light, the Milky Way, spanned the heavens, there were no roads in the sky.

On earth, the aboriginal people were contented and happy. They spent the hours of daylight by collecting the abundant foods of the jungle and the seashore, and the evenings in chanting their songs and performing their ceremonies around the campfire.

The most famous singer and actor in the tribe was Purupriki, and the songs he chanted and the dances he performed were his own creation.

There came a day when the men of a neighbouring tribe paid a visit to see the performances of Purupriki. Many hours of that evening were spent in feasting, dancing, and singing, but early the next morning the men were out in the bush collecting food for the festivities of the following night.

Waiting until just before dawn, Purupriki, creeping through the darkness of the mangrove swamps, threw his club into a tree in which a myriad of flying foxes were roosting. Angry at the attack, they swept down on Purupriki and, with a roar of wings, carried him through the dim corridors of the mangrove swamps into the firmament.

On looking up, the aborigines saw Purupriki being carried into the sky by a multitude of flying foxes that trailed behind him like a luminous pathway. And as the men listened they heard the sweet voice of their much-loved singer chanting his song of farewell.

That night the tribesmen danced and chanted Purupriki’s farewell song. And in the sky, looking down upon the men who did him honour, was Purupriki, now the bright star Antares, while stretching across the firmament were the flying foxes, transformed into that brilliant spectacle of the night sky, the Milky Way.

(from The Dreamtime: Australian Aboriginal Myths by Charles Mountford, Kindle Edition, (pp. 59-60.)

First, the light. Today (October 24) begins Diwali or Deepvali, the four-day Hindu “festival of light” celebrating the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. The festival’s name comes from Sanskrit dīpāvali or “row of lights,” a continuous illumination. The principal deities are Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity, and Ganesha, god of wisdom and remover of obstacles. Celebrants prepare for Dewali by cleaning and preparing houses and workplaces with oil lamps called diyas and colorful art circle patterns known as rangoli. People wear their finest clothes, partake in family feasts, light up the town with lamps, shoot off fireworks and share gifts. The festival’s center is at the darkest night of the lunar month and symbolizes the victory of light over darkness.

Second, the dark. Alwyn and Brinley Rees foray into it in Celtic Heritage (1963)

The alternation of day and night, light and darkness, had a profound meaning for the Celts as it did for many other peoples. It manifested in a fundamental duality which had a variety of other expressions. Even now the dead of night is felt to be nearer to the Other World than is the light of day. A person born during the night can see ghosts and phantoms which are invisible to children of day. Fairies and other spirits become active after sunset; night, in a very real sense, belongs to them, and it is fitting that mortals should withdraw to the security of their own firesides.

In Ireland, country people still say it is inappropriate for persons to be out at all hours of the night. Such wanderers might disturb the ‘little people,’ and they run the risk of recognizing among them the spirits of dead relations. The country people also doubt the propriety of staying up late at night, because the dead approach the house silently every hour between ten and twelve o’clock in the hope of finding that all is quiet … As dawn dispels darkness, so does the crowing of cocks send the spirits and the elves to their abodes — night seems to be their day and day their night. Given this atmosphere of belief, it is small wonder that night is the propitious time for divination, witchcraft, wakes for the dead, and the telling of supernatural tales. (83-84)

Rees and Rees argue that the primary elements of Celtic mythology and belief were Indo-European in origin, so it seems to me we can pry into darkest night of Diwali with a comparison to the Celtic All-Hallows.

In the calendar of Iron Age Celts (an Indo-European inheritance), the lunar year comes to an end at All Hallows on October 31, the Eve of the Samhain new year festival. On that long bitter night, the veil is thin and the dead come back to visit the living. All Hallows meals were celebrated including place settings for the departed. Trickers abounded on dark roads and rooks playing Stingy Jack, a figure from folklore who tricked the devil to get money. When he died, God wouldn’t allow him into heaven. When turned up in Hell the devil wouldn’t have him either, so Jack was sentenced to roam the earth for eternity. At Halloween turnips were painted with demonic faces to frighten Jack away — and so pumpkins were carved.

Thank the gods our earth has its own dark and light alternations, so that as we in the north now approach Halloween, May Day is coming down south, representing the return of summer. (I assume but don’t know if these festivals are reversed south of the equator; is it time now for an October May Day or Halloween? Maybe one of you could fill me in.)  Where darkness and death rule at All Hallows, Beltane crowns it May Queen with sun dances round the fertile maypole and greenwood marriages.


Darkness and light weave the ancient earth tale as the sun waxes and wanes through thirteen lunar cycles of black skies and full moons. They are kindred, brother day to sister moon, terrible in their utmost aspect and keeping our hearts and minds and feet in rhythm when in accord. We have dark nights of the soul and merry Yule logs, greenwood romance at Beltane and masses for the dead at Samhain. (And thanks to the alternate rhythms of our global North and South, here at earthweal we can celebrate the Calends of Winter and Summer Winter at the same time.)

These rhythms however are becoming distorted in the Anthropocene where a powered-up existence knows only light and a warming climate throws both biological and calendar cycles into chaos. Eight billion snow crabs have vanished from warming Arctic waters of Alaska. Hundreds of pilot whales confused by sonar or a sick member of the pod or some navigational error beach themselves, there to be left in the sadness of the sun. The core of the state I live in is still wrecked and swamped from the path of a hurricane overfed by hot Gulf waters.



For this week’s challenge, let’s go into the great forest to collect kindling of light and shadow. It’s a ritual task, one of preparation, a way to widen heart and mind so they may bear full witness to a magnitude. Every stage has its proscenium; it is the door to the dream, the hall to the next room of it. Let’s ready our grand hall by lighting verse jack-o-lanterns and filling bags of candy to appease the tricksters who will come knocking. Are there heirloom dishes good silver to lay out for the dead? Are the oil lamps hung throughout the citadel, are there enough colorful rangoli to delight the eyes of god? And what of the forest that supplies us with our fuel? Where is it found, how is it nourished / grown / composed, how are we changed by wandering through it? In what ways can poetry make us ready to receive the gift?

Every earth-song is foraged from the forest of light and shadow: let’s find enough kindling there to keep the cauldron bubbling all night — come Samhain all the doors will fly open!

— Brendan




Wendell Berry

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings.



W.S. Merwin

The stars emerge one
by one into the names
that were last found for them
far back in other
darkness no one remembers
by watchers whose own
names were forgotten
later in the dark
and as the night deepens
other lumens begin
to appear around them
as though they were shining
through the same instant
from a single depth of age
though the time between
each one of them
and its nearest neighbor
contains in its span
the whole moment of the earth
turning in a light
that is not its own
with the complete course
of life upon it
born to brief reflection
recognition and anguish
from one cell evolving
to remember daylight
laughter and distant music

— from The Shadow of Sirius (2009)




Linda Hogan

I remember how it has grown these years.
Yet the spring pinecones are still young,
soft and gentle as skin to the touch.
It is always the green season here, even with future amber
formed golden from bar
with the scent of animal life that has passed through.
If a traveler should pass by, it summons,
Stop, come in, stay.

I remember one poet taking a branch of pine
from the winter forest to his dying sister.
It was all she wanted in her last moment.
I have never forgotten the snow dripping
from that branch to the floor.

It is what I want, too,
not so much to have a branch taken away,
but for myself to be taken to this world
my own life passed through
as it does now in the shadows
where sun filters in
to melt snow, quench earth,
that water dripping from the trees.

You smell it, too, so let’s remain a while in its shade.
How I love this forest
where the hieroglyphs of insects
work the inner layers of bark
like monks writing unseen in deep silence,
and if you know the tree secret of falling
you might summon the magic language.

I know prayers rise with smoke
the way some people
are so perfectly uplifted
from their first roots.
But when this life of trying is finally over,
bring to my bed a small branch
smelling of green forest,
the melting pure water of snow,
these mysteries discovered
one more time.

— from A History of Kindness (2020



Charles Wright

Thanksgiving, dark of the moon.
Nothing down here in the underworld but vague shapes and black holes,
Heaven resplendent but virtual
Above me,
trees stripped and triple-wired like Irish harps.
Lights on Pantops and Free Bridge mirror the eastern sky.
Under the bridge is the river,
the red Rivanna.
Under the river’s redemption, it says in the book,
It says in the book,
Through water and fire the whole place becomes purified,
The visible by the visible, the hidden by what is hidden.

Each word, as someone once wrote, contains the universe.
The visible carries all the invisible on its back.
Tonight, in the unconditional, what moves in the long-limbed grasses,
what touches me
As though I didn’t exist?
What is it that keeps on moving,
a tiny pillar of smoke
Erect on its hind legs,
loose in the hollow grasses?
A word I don’t know yet, a little word, containing infinity,
Noiseless and unrepentant, in sift through the dry grass.
Under the tongue is the utterance.
Under the utterance is the fire, and then the only end of fire.

Only Dante, in Purgatory, casts a shadow,
L’ombra della carne, the shadow of flesh—
everyone else is one.
The darkness that flows from the world’s body, gloomy spot,
Pre-dogs our footsteps, and follows us,
diaphanous bodies
Watching the nouns circle, and watching the verbs circle,
Till one of them enters the left ear and becomes a shadow
Itself, sweet word in the unwaxed ear.
This is a short history of the shadow, one part of us that’s real.
This is the way the world looks
In late November,
no leaves on the trees, no ledge to foil the lightfall.

No ledge in early December either, and no ice,
La Niña unhosing the heat pump
up from the Gulf,
Orange Crush sunset over the Blue Ridge,
No shadow from anything as evening gathers its objects
And eases into earshot.
Under the influx the outtake,
Leon Battista Alberti says,
Some lights are from stars, some from the sun
And moon, and other lights are from fires.
The light from the stars makes the shadow equal to the body.
Light from fire makes it greater,
there, under the tongue, there, under the utterance.

— title poem from A Short History of the Shadow, 2002



Ranier Maria Rilke
transl. Stephen Mitchell

Silent friend of many distances, feel
how your breath enlarges all of space.
Let your presence ring out like a bell
into the night. What feeds upon your face

grows mighty from the nourishment thus offered.
Move through transformation, out and in.
What is the deepest loss that you have suffered?
If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine.

In this immeasurable darkness, be the power
that rounds your senses in their magic ring,
the sense of their mysterious encounter.

And if the earthly no longer knows your name,

whisper to the silent earth: I’m flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am.



Mary Oliver

Coming down out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel, or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful, and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings — five feet apart —
and the grabbing thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys of the snow —

and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes
to lurk there, like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows —
so I thought:
maybe death isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light wrapping itself around us —

as soft as feathers —
that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking,
and shut our eyes, not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light — scalding, aortal light —
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.

— from House of Light (1990)

earthweal weekly challenge: ENACTIVISM AND THE POETRY OF BECOMING


by Lindi-Ann Hewitt-Coleman
Wilderness, South Africa



Mary Oliver

I thought the earth
remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds. I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees. All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing
around me, the insects, and the birds
who do their work in the darkness. All night
I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling
with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.



Greetings all,

It is hard some days not to be trammeled by the ways of the world. From unchecked neighbourhood clearing for new development, new fences, new houses, new supermarkets to unchecked profiteering. In a town as small and hemmed by forest and lake as ours – each project comes with its own shrugged shoulders at its particular collateral damage. Nest of a Southern Boubou here, a handful of Puffadders and Raucous Toads there, the grass verge here where the informal traders used to eke out a half living, a storm-water drain full of plastic to the sea.

And I know there are more of us, more mouths to feed, more places to go, more money to make. But the costs of our living this way are rising with the oceans.

News of the world is worse – a litany of fears realised. War, famine, flood, fire. It is the shrugged shoulders though – that could do us in in the end – our inability to find right action in the world. Our inability to act.

Perhaps the way forward is enacting itself right under our feet.

“Enactivism (according to Wikipedia) is a position in cognitive science that argues that cognition arises through a dynamic interaction between an acting organism and its environment. It claims that the environment of an organism is brought about, or enacted, by the active exercise of that organism’s sensorimotor processes.”

In his 2006 book Consciousness & Emotion, JT Burman asserted that the self arises as “part of the process of an embodied entity interacting with the environment in precise ways determined by its physiology. In this sense, individuals can be seen to ‘grow into’ or arise from their interactive role with the world.”

Enactivism speaks of an embodied understanding of our world where we (and all organisms) are shaped and shapers of our environment — not as a mind thinking the world into being, but rather a body, a community, a colony living the world into being. To paraphrase Edwin Hutchins, all beings are actors in the environment. What we experience is shaped by how we act.

This is both good news and bad.



It is the teeming micro-organisms. It is the seed on the riverbank becoming sapling, becoming tree, becoming a forest that makes the rain that fills the rivers where seeds send quiet roots becoming and becoming.

We were shaped by our environment and have been shaping it all along. Since at least the industrial revolution, and probably from the moment we first perceived ourselves as separate from the world, our actions have been shaping our environment to the detriment of ourselves, other species and the planet as a whole. We have actively created the threats we now face – climate crisis, over-consumerism, famine, isolation, violent nationalism, disconnection and more. First world comfort comes with a blood price.

In their essay “From Shared Enaction to Intrinsic Value: How Enactivism Contributes to Environmental Ethics” Magdalena Kielkowicz-Werner and Konrad Werner write,

There is no way back to the state of the world from the periods predating the separation. What we have done to planet Earth will persist. Enactivism provides the tools to apprehend, understand and in a sense accept this fact due to its inherent tendency to emphasize looped rather than linear processes. Man’s impact on the environment also creates a loop. The environment shaped us, we re-shaped the environment, and this in turn re-shaped us. The point is that we are now morally obliged not to try to find a way back, which would be in vain, but to bring forth one more loop, this time more beneficial instead of destructive and exploitative.

I do not see any easy answer here. What I do see is an endless stream of possibilities forming and reforming themselves from this point going forward. Each action as an individual, as a family, a community, as a collective, will shape our environment and shape us in turn while we reshape our environment again and again. Questions of how we live, how we connect, how we eat, how we grow our food, how we move, how we gather, are questions whose answers are actions that shape us, all beings, fundamentally.



And what does any of this have to do with poetry? The moon rises over a forested hill, plum blossoms drift silent to the earth below, cold mornings we strike a match, light a fire, watch our skin glow and we are shaped and shaped and shaped to this beauty.

Poetry has the power to change our relationship to place. When Mary Oliver wrote her world as sacred, we came to know it as such. And as much as the landscape she wrote was shaped by her witness, she too undoubtedly was shaped by her landscape. According to the 1983 Chronology of American Literature her poems, “refuse(s) to acknowledge boundaries between nature and the observing self.”

Reading and writing poetry is a participatory sense-making of our world. We shape and are shaped by it.

Our challenge this week is to explore our ability to act.

What does right action, right living look like in your world? What does it look like when the boundaries between nature and the observing self disappear?

Write yourself into your landscape, what shapes you there and what is shaped by you? Name the gods of your rivers and skies, tell us how you live by and through them and how they live through you — let the world know they are holy!

Or use this piece as a springboard for you own exploration, this is a poetry of revolution – feel free. Happy writing!

— Lindi

PS: Brendan has asked me to briefly introduce myself – so here goes. I live and write in Wilderness, South Africa – a small town in the narrow forested coastal belt between the Indian Ocean and the Outeniqua mountains. I am a mother of daughters. I was born in Cape Town, studied English and Drama (the drama is mostly a dark secret from a distant past) at the University of Cape Town and moved here with my family in my mid thirties. Here is quite far out the way by most South African standards – we sometimes get asked questions by city folk like do we have roads, electricity and internet? And yes we do have all of those – though sometimes intermittently. We also have night skies, some really wild wildlife, and a working towards being re-generative small forest farm. When I am not writing and growing things, I teach creative writing, run workshops on creativity and reconnection, spin wool from our Angora goats, teach spinning and dyeing and run(collaboratively) a community skills share project working towards resilience and food security as a community. At night, like now in the rain, frogs sing.




Ursula K. Le Guin

Mother rain, manifold, measureless,
falling on fallow, on field and forest,
on house-roof, low hovel, high tower,
downwelling waters all-washing, wider
than cities, softer than sisterhood, vaster
than countrysides, calming, recalling:
return to us, teaching our troubled
souls in your ceaseless descent
to fall, to be fellow, to feel to the root,
to sink in, to heal, to sweeten the sea.



Jeremy Cronin

To learn how to speak
With the voices of the land,
To parse the speech in its rivers,
To catch in the inarticulate grunt,
Stammer, call, cry, babble, tongue’s knot
A sense of the stoneness of these stones
From which all words are cut.
To trace with the tongue wagon-trails
Saying the suffix of their aches in -kuil, -pan, -fontein,
In watery names that confirm
The dryness of their ways.
To visit the places of occlusion, or the lick
In a vlei-bank dawn.
To bury my mouth in the pit of your arm,
In that planetarium,
Pectoral beginning to the nub of time
Down there close to the water-table, to feel
The full moon as it drums
At the back of my throat,
Its cow-skinned vowel.
To write a poem with words like:
I’m telling you,
Stompie, stickfast, golovan,
Songololo, just boombang, just
To understand the least inflections,
To voice without swallowing
Syllables born in tin shacks, or catch
The 5.15 ikwata bust fife
Chwannisberg train, to reach
The low chant of the mine gang’s
Mineral glow of our people’s unbreakable resolve.
To learn how to speak
With the voices of this land.

(Jeremy Cronin is a South African poet and activist)



Mary Oliver

One summer afternoon I heard
a looming, mysterious hum
high in the air; then came something

like a small planet flying past –

not at all interested in me but on its own
way somewhere, all anointed with excitement:
bees, swarming,

not to be held back.

Nothing could hold them back.

Gannets diving.
Black snake wrapped in a tree, our eyes

The grass singing
as it sipped up the summer rain.
The owl in the darkness, that good darkness
under the stars.

The child that was myself, that kept running away
to the also running creek,
to colt’s foot and trilliams,
to the effortless prattle of the birds.

You are going to grow up
and in order for that to happen
I am going to have to grow old
and then I will die, and the blame
will be yours.

He wanted a body
so he took mine.
Some wounds never vanish.

Yet little by little
I learned to love my life.

Though sometimes I had to run hard  –
especially from melancholy  –
not to be held back.

I think there ought to be
a little music here:

hum, hum.

The resurrection of the morning.
The mystery of the night.
The hummingbird’s wings.
The excitement of thunder.
The rainbow in the waterfall.
Wild mustard, that rough blaze of the fields.

The mockingbird, replaying the songs of his neighbors.
The bluebird with its unambitious warble
simple yet sufficient.

The shining fish. The beak of the crow.
The new colt who came to me and leaned
against the fence
that I might put my hands upon his warm body
and know no fear.

Also the words of poets
a hundred or hundreds of years dead —
their words that would not be held back.

Oh the house of denial has thick walls
and very small windows
and whoever lives there, little by little,
will turn to stone.

In those years I did everything I could do
and I did it in the dark –

I mean, without understanding.
I ran away.
I ran away again.
Then, again, I ran away.

They were awfully little, those bees,
and maybe frightened,
yet unstoppably they flew on, somewhere,
to live their life.

Hum, hum, hum.



Wendell Berry

It is hard to have hope. It is harder as you grow old,
for hope must not depend on feeling good
and there is the dream of loneliness at absolute midnight.
You also have withdrawn belief in the present reality
of the future, which surely will surprise us,
and hope is harder when it cannot come by prediction
any more than by wishing. But stop dithering.
The young ask the old to hope. What will you tell them?
Tell them at least what you say to yourself.

Because we have not made our lives to fit
our places, the forests are ruined, the fields eroded,
the streams polluted, the mountains overturned. Hope
then to belong to your place by your own knowledge
of what it is that no other place is, and by
your caring for it as you care for no other place, this
place that you belong to though it is not yours,
for it was from the beginning and will be to the end.

Belong to your place by knowledge of the others who are
your neighbors in it: the old man, sick and poor,
who comes like a heron to fish in the creek,
and the fish in the creek, and the heron who manlike
fishes for the fish in the creek, and the birds who sing
in the trees in the silence of the fisherman
and the heron, and the trees that keep the land
they stand upon as we too must keep it, or die.

This knowledge cannot be taken from you by power
or by wealth. It will stop your ears to the powerful
when they ask for your faith, and to the wealthy
when they ask for your land and your work.
Answer with knowledge of the others who are here
and how to be here with them. By this knowledge
make the sense you need to make. By it stand
in the dignity of good sense, whatever may follow.

Speak to your fellow humans as your place
has taught you to speak, as it has spoken to you.
Speak its dialect as your old compatriots spoke it
before they had heard a radio. Speak
publicly what cannot be taught or learned in public.

Listen privately, silently to the voices that rise up
from the pages of books and from your own heart.
Be still and listen to the voices that belong
to the streambanks and the trees and the open fields.
There are songs and sayings that belong to this place,
by which it speaks for itself and no other.

Found your hope, then, on the ground under your feet.
Your hope of Heaven, let it rest on the ground
underfoot. Be it lighted by the light that falls
freely upon it after the darkness of the nights
and the darkness of our ignorance and madness.
Let it be lighted also by the light that is within you,
which is the light of imagination. By it you see
the likeness of people in other places to yourself
in your place. It lights invariably the need for care
toward other people, other creatures, in other places
as you would ask them for care toward your place and you.

No place at last is better than the world. The world
is no better than its places. Its places at last
are no better than their people while their people
continue in them. When the people make
dark the light within them, the world darkens.