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06 March 2019

Posted by Sophie Jones, Susmita Bhattacharya

Eco-Poetry with Susan Richardson

Last Saturday, we welcomed poet Susan Richardson to lead a workshop on Eco-Poetry. Susan talked about her journey as a writer and poet, and also how she began to focus on eco-poetry in particular. We learnt that there are so many other avenues that poetry can explore and be a part of. Susan’s various commissions and projects really highlighted all the possibilities of making poetry a part of everyday life. You can find out more about Susan's journey and her work at her website: https://www.susanrichardsonwriter.co.uk/.


So, what is eco-poetry? It is poetry that has a strong ecological focus and message. John Shoptow's article on the Poetry Foundation website discusses it and also gives examples of eco-poetry: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/articles/70299/why-ecopoetry.


Susan was the Writer in Residence for the Marine Conservation Society (
https://www.mcsuk.org/) and it was during this residency that she wrote her Ted Hughes Prize shortlisted collection – Words the Turtle Taught Me, which looks at 30 threatened marine species from UK waters. Susan performed poetry from this collection and from her previous collections as well.


The young writers were given the opportunity to explore the ecological themes that Susan talked about, and they shared their poems most enthusiastically with the group. Susan gave them very detailed and useful feedback, and it was great to hear about some technical aspects of poetry writing from her as well.


In particular, Susan mentioned that she is often led by sounds rather than visuals when writing poetry and this often shows in her work. Some tips she shared with us were:

  • Making optimum use of sound to convey the message of a poem or even prose.

  • Single syllable words make a stronger impact.

  • Plosive sounds such as words beginning with B, P, T and D are harsh and can convey a sense of urgency, unrest, a sense of marching on.

  • Softer sounds like S, Sh, F, M and N create a mellower mood.

  • K makes a guttural sound


Here’s a link for further reading on poetry and sound:

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/THE_SOUNDS_OF_POETRY_33553_7.pdf


And if you’d like read more about poetic techniques, you can check this out:

https://www.chaparralpoets.org/devices.pdf


Susan is the poetry editor for an eco-magazine called Zoomorphic, and she really encouraged everyone to have a look and submit when submissions open. http://zoomorphic.net


Here’s a couple of poems from the session that we’d like to share:

PRISTICHAMPUS

The croc swam the murky waters of the Thames

Gone were the days of being treated like Gods,

Where people bowed

and prayed

and celebrated.

Gone were the hot waters,

and glittering sun.

Replaced by the glum, grey buildings

and never-ending rain clouds.

Pristicampus was a beast out of time

And the cold, grey waters

And the cold, grey air,

And the cold grey buildings

Had its time running out.

- Sophie Lockwood


UNTITLED
I
A crate stood alone on the ice
And it looked so terribly nice

So I climbed inside
And what a fright
When shut the door
And my eyes became as black as night.

II
I rumbled around as the box
Shook to and fro

My albino white coat that was
Stained from the snow

Brushed against a hinge and
I held up my paw

I felt the cold metal
As hard as my claws

But all was not lost, I could
Still get home,

To go back to the icebergs, to
Wander and roam.

So I picked at the nail, it
Came away in my paw.

I felt a sharp pain
And it dropped to the floor

A large bead of blood
Oozed out from my
Fur, I leant against the
Door, it suddenly
Gave way, and as I
Fell I felt happy I was
To roam the snow for at
Least one more day.

But when I rose from my
Crumpled state, I was going to
Flee but my mind said wait.
Where is the snow and the
Ice where I used to play,
The iceberg is missing, and so
Is the cave, it's been replaced
By traffic lights, motor cars,
Skyscrapers, and I
Thought to myself

It's a place the humans made.

An automobile passes me and
I run across the street a
Large black motorcar is coming
Near me, and it starts to
Beep, I close my eyes with my
Paw and hope it'll stop,
But I felt a short pain,
And all I remember is

If there hadn't been any humans my heart would not have stopped.
- Milly Phillips

We’d like to thank Susan immensely for her time and enthusiasm. We were all very much inspired by her talk, her poetry and her writing exercises. And this session will be of great help as we prepare to write poems for the Hampshire Keats Poetry competition.

https://www.visitwinchester.co.uk/app/uploads/2019/02/Keats_WritingComp_Flyer_Jan19_print.pdf


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