Literature of the Climate Crisis

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We have eleven years to cut global emissions in half. Scientists warn that anything less could raise the global temperature over 1.5 °C and create massive droughts, floods, extreme heat, poverty, and environmental emigration.

2019 saw a huge shift in the public’s awareness of the climate crisis. We’ve curated a reading list for those who want to learn even more.

 

Nonfiction

Environmental Books Nonfiction

This is Not a Drill (2019): A collection of essays written and collected by Extinction Rebellion members that will bring the urgency of the climate crisis into reality.

On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal (2019): A collection of award-winning environmental journalist Naomi Klein’s most poignant and inspiring articles on the climate crisis in the last decade.

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy (2019): In the midst of her exploration of the intersection of technology, memory, and humanity, Jenny Odell connects our tech-induced memory lapses to our lack of attention to our environment.

No One is Too Small to Make a Different (2019) : Greta Thunberg lit the world on fire with her passionate, scalding speeches on the urgency of the climate crisis. This collection documents some of her most inspiring words.

Daughter of Copper Woman: From creation myths to the bloody legacy of colonization, Anne Cameron documents the stories of indigenous women and the link between culture, feminism, and land.

 

Poetry

Environmental Books Poetry

“The Peace of Wild Things” (2018): First published in Wendell Berry’s collection of the same name, you can read the entire poem here.

“Lullaby in Fracktown” (2016): First published in Poetry‘s January 2016 issue, you can read the entire poem here.  This poem was written by Lilace Mellin Guignard.

“Once the World Was Perfect” (2015): First published in Joy Harjo’s collection Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, you can read the entire poem here.

“Of Age” (2017): First published in the New Yorker, you can read the entire poem here. This poem was written by Amit Majmudar

“2 Degrees” (2015): First preformed at an United Nations Climate Change event, you can read the entire poem here. This poem was written by Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner.

 

Fiction

Environmental Books Fiction

Oryx & Crake (2003): The first in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAdam trilogy, Oryx & Crake tells the story of a new species of people created specifically to survive the climate apocalypse.

The Lorax (1971): Dr. Seuss’s iconic and essential children’s story about the consequences of capitalism on the environment.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1996): Humans are barely surviving from the legacy of environmental destruction in this world crawling with giant insects, toxic air, and human greed.

The Road (2006): A father and child try to survive life on the road after a devastating apocalypse transforms the land around them.

Bone Clocks (2014): Author David Mitchell uses the landscape of a fantasy world to explore human nature and our relationship to the environment around us.

 

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How Slam Poetry Can Be Used As A Form of Protest

In today’s political climate where politicians sputter hasty tweets, ramble in convoluted circles without coming to a concrete answer, and strip away the voices of disenfranchised groups of people, slam poetry seeks to reclaim the voice as a tool for power. Though in the media, both politician’s and civilian’s words are often misconstrued or misinterpreted, slam poems seek to tell the poet’s truth about whatever topic they choose to recite. Slam poems are poetry spoken aloud to an audience, often with intense emotion conveyed through pointed word choice, syntax, rhythmic considerations, and a heartfelt, zealous voice.

In order to write a slam poem that delivers its intended meaning successfully, the poet must consider each individual word and syllable within it to deliver their intended meaning. Unlike typical poetry, which is not often read aloud, the writing of slam poems must consider both the written word and spoken delivery. Each word must have a determined, concrete meaning and be spoken through impassioned, dynamic dialogue. When done successfully, these poems are meant to incite emotion within the poet’s audience and can inspire change, or call to action. The meanings of these poems are meant to be understood universally, as opposed to much of the noninclusive language used in political rhetoric that often gatekeeps against those without higher levels of education and English language comprehension. While some politicians avoid giving concrete answers to pressing questions by beating around the bush, each word in a slam poem must be carefully chosen and articulated. Slam poetry allows for the speaker to thoughtfully deliver a message of what is important to them, and can serve as a form of protest and a platform- for everyone

Check out some of these slam poems below:

  1. Neil Hillborn “OCD” 
  2. Javon Johnson “Cuz he’s black”
  3. Savannah Brown “Moles don’t think about space or small talk”
  4. Sukhjit Khalsa- Slam Poem
  5. Savannah Brown “I wrote this happy”
  6. Jillian Rabideau “Rated R”

 

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Author Spotlight: Wendell Berry

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Wendell Berry, 85, on his farm in Port Royal, Kentucky. Guy Mendes / Vox

The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and wasteful.” -from Wendell Berry’s Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community: Eight Essays, 1993

Wendell Berry is an American author of both fiction and nonfiction, a poet, essayist, environmental activist, and farmer. He has written extensively about the practices of agriculture, and the impacts it has on consumers, animals, and the planet. As environmental consciousness grows, Berry’s writings reflect an urgent and raw call for action and reform.

Though Wendell Berry has gained more traction and attention in the past decade, he is no newcomer to advocating for his environmentalist beliefs through writing. His more recent works have come to reflect a current dissatisfaction with the political character of our nation, most prominently regarding America’s animal agriculture practices and harmful destruction. Despite his dissatisfaction with the current governing and operation of American, Berry’s writing paves a road towards hope for future generations. By advocating for more sustainable, less environmentally taxing practices, he is helping to reform the agricultural landscape of modern society. 

In the world of today’s climate crisis, Berry’s work urge readers to actively take charge and make change in their communities. Global change begins with individuals making a conscious effort to lessen their negative impact on the environment around them. Young activists today can look to Berry’s writings for non-violent, environmentalist prose, which urges readers to end the destruction of the Earth, animals, and human beings. Berry believes that once we have the knowledge to recognize wrong in the world around us, it is our moral duty to try and make change or find solutions to the issue- as demonstrates in his participation in the 2011 Kentuckians for the Commonwealth rally/sit-in to end mountaintop removal coal mining. In “The Peace of Wild Things”, Berry discusses the discomfort of industrialization, and the contrasting solitude and serenity found in nature:

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Post written by Emily Bunn

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Transcendentalism in Boston

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Emerson lecturing in Concord. Bettmann / Getty Images

“But in New England, the ideas entertained by the foreign thinkers took root in the native soil and blossomed out in every form of social life. The philosophy assumed full proportions, produced fruit according to its kind, created a new social order for itself, or rather showed what sort of social order it would create under favoring conditions. Its new heavens and new earth were made visible, if but for a moment, and in a wintry season. Hence, when we speak of Transcendentalism, we mean New England Transcendentalism. New England furnished the only plot of ground on the planet, where the transcendental philosophy had a chance to show what it was and what it proposed” -Octavius Brooks Frothingham, second wave transcendentalist writer and author of New England Transcendentalism

Transcendentalism was a literary, philosophical, and religious movement that began in the 19th century, based in New England. Followers of this movement believed that independent, self-reliant human’s coexistence with nature is the utmost state of existence. Transcendentalists thought that society and institutions had corrupted individual’s purity and that only through cohabitation with oneself in nature can equilibrium be restored. The natural, glorious landscape of New England- specifically in Massachusetts, inspired transcendentalist writings.

The head of the transcendentalist movement came to a head in Boston. The prevalence of literacy, sense of individualism, and tenacious Protestant beliefs held in New England at the time made this area the perfect breeding group for transcendentalism to flourish. Frothingham describes how the character of New Englanders were the perfect practitioners of transcendentalism’s ideas. “The Unitarians of New England, good scholars, careful reasoners, clear and exact thinkers, accomplished men of letters, humane in sentiment, sincere in moral intention, belonged, of course with individual exceptions, to the class which looked without for knowledge, rather than within for inspiration.”

The transcendentalists were so cemented in their belief of coexistence with nature that they collectively bought and temporarily lived at Brook Farm in West Roxbury, Boston, though most of their correspondences otherwise happened in the city. Commonly the transcendentalist club held meetings in Boston’s Beacon Hill at the Boston Athenaeum where the writers would engage in research at the Athenaeum’s library. Close by is the Parker House, located at 60 School Street in Beacon Hill. The transcendentalists would gather at the Parker House and host lively round table discussions, completely with freely flowing discussion, spirits, and food.

Further, the Old Corner Bookstore located on School Street in Boston allowed for transcendentalists to meet and publish their works. Between 1845 and 1865, The Old Corner Bookstore revolutionized the American book publishing industry by winning “worldwide renown as a well-stocked shop, a prominent publishing house, and a magnet for the literary world.”

Finally, one of Boston’s most well-known landmarks, The Common, was where it was rumored Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman strolled, as Emerson tried to convince Whitman to tone down the sexual language in his works. Whitman wrote:

“Each point of Emerson’s statement was unanswerable, no judge’s charge ever more complete or convincing, I could never hear the point better put – and then I felt down in my soul the clear and unmistakable conviction to disobey all and pursue my own way.”

As Whitman aspired to do in his own works, the writings of the transcendentalists radicalized American writing by introducing a new, less inhibited way of thinking about one’s relation to the world. The transcendentalist movement created a more secular, skeptical generation of American writers and intellectuals.

Sources: http://atweb.tatecommunications.com/boston.htm

Post written by Emily Bunn

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Poet Spotlight: Evie Shockley

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Photo credit: Stéphane Robolin and the Poetry Foundation

“It pains me to tell you of it; but I have promised to tell you the truth, and I will do it honestly, let it cost me what it may.” – “Sex Trafficking Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl in the USA (or, The Nation’s Plague in Plain Sight)”

So writes Evie Shockley, a poet from Nashville, Tennessee, and the author of three books titled A Half Red Sea, The New Black, and Semiautomatic and her monograph, Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry. Shockley was recognized for her poetic efforts when she received the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for her book The New Black, as well as the Holmes National Poetry Prize, both in 2012. A few years later, in 2018, she placed as a Pulitzer Prize Finalist for the release of her most recent book, Semiautomatic

Semiautomatic recounts the experience of being black in America, police brutality, and racism, among other topics regarding the search for equality and justice. What makes this collection so unique is the unconventional attention to form and utilization of free verse. While her poems are often serious and saddening, the use of different poetic forms, such as unusual capitalization, repetition, rhyme scheme, and meter, is very playful. The writing exemplified in Semiautomatic is fierce, unabashed, and determined to make not only an impact but a concrete change in the world around her.

Another one of Shockley’s strengths is her keen eye for noticing the discrepancies and hidden nightmares of America’s operation. She often focuses her writing on topics that are considered taboo, or that are too painful to be spoken about aloud. One of the most heartwrenching and impactful pieces Shockley has published is “Sex Trafficking Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl in the USA (or, The Nation’s Plague in Plain Sight).” In this poem, the issue of sex trafficking in America is analyzed. A startling comparison is made between the atrocities of past slaves, and today’s female sex trafficking victims in America. Quotations from political figures, sex trafficking victims, anti-human trafficking organization officials, and sex trafficking statistics are fluidly incorporated within her poem to aid her message. The author grapples with her own realizations about this toxic, violent underground industry simultaneously telling the story of a victim. At the culmination of the piece, Shockley self-referentially asks herself what she can do to help fight this issue, and by writing this poem, she has brought attention to this critical issue of today.

To read Evie Shockley’s “Sex Trafficking Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl in the USA (or, The Nation’s Plague in Plain Sight)”, please the Poetry Foundation

Post written by Emily Bunn

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The Luminous Literary Life of Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Cambridge, MA is home to an impressive academic, literary community. Wandering down Massachusetts Avenue and the various side streets of Harvard Square, one can relish for hours among endless aisles of book stores and libraries. Cambridge is home to Harvard University, which garners a dignified collection of the works of renowned professors and writers in the world of academia. There are endless opportunities to learn and expand one’s bookshelf in the city of Cambridge, and here at CambridgeEditors, we strive to help writers improve their own works of writing. Exploring the scholastic landscape of the city is inspirational to the work of Cambridge Editors. Below are some of the best literary locations to visit on your stay in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Coop Cafe and Bookstore

The Coop Cafe/Bookstore is a one-stop-shop for Harvard students and alum, along with the general public. The bookstore offers an array of Harvard professor’s works, alongside various new, unrelated releases as well. Upstairs, there is a cozy cafe where one can pick up a cup of coffee or a pastry to enjoy while settling down to dive into a new read.

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Harvard Yard

Harvard’s campus, the heart of Cambridge, is both renowned and beautiful, especially during autumn. While strolling around campus, one can admire the stately, old halls, libraries, and class buildings. On the Harvard lawn, there are seating areas for one to sit and read peacefully.

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Harvard Bookstore

The Harvard Bookstore on Mass Ave offers a brilliant selection of books inside and outside. Shoppers can find priced-down, used books outside the shop and in the basement. Inside the Harvard Bookstore, one is welcome to browse the aisles to their heart’s content for any reading material they are looking to catch up on.

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Grolier Poetry Bookstore

Founded in 1927 near Havard Square, Grollier Poetry Bookstore exists as the oldest continuous poetry bookshop. Grollier Poetry Bookstore consists of one small but charming room, yet the life and works of art inside the shop are largely impressive. Grollier offers poetry readings, foundation events, and book sharing opportunities. Though it has become a popular literary destination for poets and book lovers, this hidden gem offers a vast array of rare and diverse works of poetry.

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Article and photos by Emily Bunn

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The Beat Generation: Members, Ideology, and Influences

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Neal Cassady (and the love of that year) photographed by Allen Ginsberg

“Nobody knows whether we were just catalysts or invented something, or just the froth riding on a wave of its own. We were all three, I suppose,” writes Allen Ginsberg, who along with William Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac, was one of the core founders of the Beat Generation, a literary movement inspired by politics and culture of the post-WWII American society. Coming to fruition in the 1950s, the movement coalesced around poets and polemicists in San Francisco and Berkley, California, and in New York City. The members of this movement were considered counterculture and rejected standard poetic and societal norms.

The shared values of Beat Generation authors include rejection of materialism, exploitation of Eastern religions, psychedelic experimentation, explicit and raw illustrations of the human condition, and sexual liberation. To reach a heightened state of sensory awareness, the Beat Generation advocated for Zen Buddism, drugs, sex, and jazz and bebop music. Common themes within Beat Generation writings include the demystification/decriminalization of marijuana, opposition to the military-industrial ‘machine civilization,’ and sexual freedom. 

Though the movement faded by the 1960s, the effects of these great writers continue to be longstanding. The openness and raw emotion of the Beat writers helped break down barriers in the artistic and literary worlds. Great later writers who were influenced by the Beat Generation include Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, and Gary Snyder. Similarly, the Beat Generation influenced the notable Andy Warhol, an abstract pop artist who also went against artistic norms to create his paintings. After the world was introduced to Beat Generation writing, poetry become more free-form and unconventional. Overall, the Beat Generation created a more abstract and unapologetic generation of writers and artists.

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William Burroughs photographed by Allen Ginsberg

The greatest works of the Beat Generation, which still influence writing today, have changed my perspective on the medium itself. My favorite Beat Generation works include “Howl” and “A Supermarket in California” by Allen Ginsberg; “Old Angel Midnight” and On The Road by Jack Kerouac, The Soft Machine and And the Hippos Were Boiled in their Tanks by William Burroughs; “An Exercise in Love” by Diane Di Prima; and the crowning piece of the entire Beat Generation- “America” by Allen Ginsberg. 

Allen Ginsberg’s “America” is a heart-wrenching, angry, and enigmatic poem about the infrastructure and operations of the mechanized, militaristic, capitalist society of America in the 1950s. In the wake of WWII, Ginsburg discusses the political unrest that has stained the American soil. He discusses the Cold War foreign policy positions the United States embroils itself in and his contempt with the nation’s handling of these situations at stake. Within “America” Ginsberg discusses themes such as the creation and threat of nuclear bombs, organized religion, drug use, and the fight against communism. Ginsberg is ranting to the omniscient America so as much as he is rambling to himself, and his ebullient, frustrated, radical declarations are both political and vulgar. Ginsberg’s impenetrable tenacity and fierce argumentation raise skepticism about the world around us; especially within such the highly advanced and praised democracy that America broadcasts. To exemplify this, below is the first stanza of Allen Ginsberg’s “America.”

 

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twentyseven cents January 17, 1956.   
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I’m sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?

 

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William Burroughs photographed by Allen Ginsberg

 

To read the rest of “America”, please visit: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/49305/america-56d22b41f119f

Post written by Emily Bunn

 

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