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Poetry forum for a changing Earth.

earthweal weekly challenge: GIVING THANKS


For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, winter approaches with dimmer days and longer nights. It’s not cold here in Florida, but there a wan tone feels durable, tending toward grey, long shadows, a weariness and pall which carol the year’s decline.

Further North, a vaster chill gathers and deepens.

For our neighbors south of the equator, there is an equidistant suggestion of spring; a flush to morning skies and widening buds.

Inbreath and outbreath; one half trudges toward winter while the other breathes a springtide sigh of relief.

There are inversions. As the I Ching says, to and fro goes The Way. While light recedes to a nadir in winter, it is yet a creative time in the inward spaces, perhaps the most fertile of all. Certainly there is flush of good cheer to the coldest winter night. And on the other side of Earth where springtide courses run, it is a time to be out, planting gardens and ramping up new projects.

Of late, pollutants have marred the clarity of these movements. The Anthropocene brews monster hurricanes at the Equator and far East, sets fire to wetlands and foments vast uncertainty in the fast-heating poles. However we may have acclimated to our local weather, changing notes are part of the mix.

Along with the weltering weather, the human community hunkers down to battle other extremes—pandemic, political instability, disrupting norms of truthful discourse and community. The 21st century so far is behaving far more uncivilized than the last!

So: A tempered seasonal, imbued both with traditional cheer and a rattling chill of change in the eaves.

In my country, this week we celebrate Thanksgiving, a celebration of family and community much eroded by capitalism and pandemic. My wife and I will celebrate at home, perhaps to Zoom with distant family; but without aren’t in the mix any more, and no kids (just cats), we’re uncertain about the entire holiday season. A tree with lights? Wreath for the door? Any more? Who knows.

But still we can give thanks. Like Rilke writes in his Sonnets to Orpheus, “praising is what matters!”

Come these Florida Novembrals, breezy with strolling fronts of light and cloud, wisps of rain, sighs in the trees, time is afoot, the sky hiking great lengths across the Earth. It’s not cool or warm, just alternations of wan; days pass quickly into long nights. In my drinking days it was an end of the world time, weeks of blackout drinking and the world about dazed and thirsty for happy hour: now it is inner and nourishing, fleeting fast toward the Christmas holiday. Advent season still approaches and yet feels already over. As David Spangler wrote in Festivals of Manifestation, this is the innermost season of the Christ, giving birth to a great sense of Being within: In these latter days of November, the coming month of December feel almost inaugural.

Let us praise the season we enter, this time in which we still exist, and give thanks for the bounty we are yet surrounded by, the nurture of what’s given.


earthweal weekly challenge: KEEP IT GREEN


I’ve been deep in a forest of late, departed from the mad tumult of bloodsport politics, soaring pandemics and climate derangement. I’m staying green, hopping tree to tree of an ancient singing tradition, wintering, as it were, while the sun beats down and the winds yet blow.

I’m still there: So I’m not sure what I have in my creel to salmon for a challenge.

We had a minor scrape earlier in the week with the remnants of the year’s 29th named storm, the Greek maiden Etta who had ravaged Nicarauga, flooded Miami and then rattled our morning here with 50 mph gusts. No big deal. The year’s 30th storm Iota take aim again on Nicaragua, swollen and swirling thanks to infernally hot southern Carribbean waters; this, while to the south the Pantanal wetlands burn out of control … With all the storms and heat of late, it’s hard to feel here in Florida there are only two seasons: summer and zombie summer.

For counter-compass I’m staying green, writing in the manner of this unknown poet of distant monastic age:

A wall of forest looms above and sweetly the blackbird sings;
the birds make melody over me and my books and things.

There sings to me the cuckoo from bush-citadels in grey hood
God’s doom! May the Lord protect me writing well, under the great wood.

Anyway, what in the living world delights you today? Sing a song of earth-praise. Let’s KEEP IT GREEN.

— Brendan

earthweal open link weekend #44

Autumn in Queen’s Wood, London. Photo: The Guardian


Greetings and welcome to earthweal open link weekend #44. Link a poem and visit your fellow poets and comment.

Thanks to Jim for a weekly challenge which was sensitive to the time and the painful emotions most of us are feeling.

Open link weekend will come to an end on Sunday night at midnight EST as the next weekly challenge rolls out.


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


Hi, this is Jim Feeney (stopdraggingthepanda.com), 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!