Monday, 27 of March of 2017

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Leaves From an Australian Forest Protest by Ron Fletcher

Book Review by Dennis Fritzinger

Our friends Down Under are endlessly inventive. Not only have they given us John Seed, they brought Middle Earth to the Nullica Forest. In the pages of this book we find Bilbo (Baggins), but also elves, blue fairies and the like. (Granted, Tolkien didn’t write about blue fairies, but when you meet them you’ll know what they are.)

This is a book of poems. It covers a whole campaign, at least its author’s involvement in it. The only parallel I can think of is Grasshopper’s coverage of Red Cloud Thunder, though it was spotty by comparison and didn’t invoke Middle Earth’s language at any time.

Middle Earth in Australia? Isn’t it supposed to be in New Zealand? Isn’t that where they shot the movie? True enough, but the greenies put it in Nullica Forest this time, and that’s where we find it.

Technically speaking, the poems her are formal verse — that is, they rhyme. Rhyme, as we know, is a powerful tool for creating memories. Even unexceptional poems may have a line or two that is memorable thanks to its rhyming. The book, also, is organized like a diary. We are introduced to the author first, and then important actors in the story. Even the title harks back to an earlier piece of Australia by a similar name.

Opening the covers of the book we quickly meet a cast of familiar characters and problems — familiar to anyone who has taken part in a forest campaign, that is. There are moments of heartache, moments of triumph, and a good deal of humor throughout. The book is about the same length as one of the childhood classics we read when we were kids, so it’s easy to get through.

Into the Sky

When spirits are thrown down from on high
Lift them straight back into the sky,
For a phoenix is born from within our loss,
Hold onto your faith but don’t carry a cross.
For we have the strength, at the end of the day,
And the power within us, to walk our own way;
In the depths of despair we will never lose hope,
No matter how high or how steep the slope.
So if blown by the storm or oppressed by the man
Dust yourself off and make a new plan,
Keep treading the path that makes you feel whole,
Though rocky and steep, it is good for the soul.

— Ron Fletcher


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Moving Rocks

Rock

Less-WordsThe fifty to a hundred words making up a poem on Armed With Visions is a minuscule amount compared to the number of words you encounter in a day, yet that single poem can and hopefully will have much more impact than all the rest of the words you hear that day.

Turning a gene off or on makes a big difference to a genome — it determines which proteins get made and which aren’t, and this in turn determines all the physical features of the creature involved.

A tiny change can lead to vast consequences, and a series of tiny changes can do even more — turn a dinosaur into a bird, for instance. Move a rock at a spring’s source and it can change the direction of the stream it feeds, and in turn the creek and river. Just moving a rock.

As warrior poets, that’s what we do — move rocks. We seek to change the flow from one direction to another. If we can do that, even a little bit, we’ll have done our job.

–Dennis Fritzinger


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Update From Warriorpoet Ambassador Joey Racano

Joey Racano

Sunset Prayer Ceremony at Thank You Whales two years ago

Sunset Prayer Ceremony at Thank You Whales two years ago (photo by Jennifer Randall)


My name is Joey Racano and I am a Warrior Poet. As the Founding Ambassador to the Warrior Poets Society, I have been posting on the warriorpoets@yahoogroups listserve for a dozen years now, and it continues to be a grand experience.

I use poetry to raise people’s hackles on issues they should know about as well as to educate. My activism is not all online though – far from it!

This Summer I’ll yet again be organizing the 4th annual Thank You Whales event Aug 15th at Avila Beach on California’s Central Coast. I’m also recording a CD with my band, have recently published a book called Dance to the Apocalypse and am writing, writing, writing!

For more info on my art and other efforts, visit these websites:

oceanoutfallgroup.com
earthsourcemedia.org
www.joeysingstheblues.com

Also learn more about my work at these Facebook pages: Spiritpen, Crow Kung Fu, Lake of Fire, Chronopolis, Stop Navy Sonar Testing,Free Tilly, Stop the Diablo Canyon Seismic Testing. 

I’m Proud to be part of this great movement! -Joey Racano


Warrior Poet’s Half Dozen Eco Poems

 
 
In the new anthology “Singing School, Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry” Robert Pinsky tells us poets to go back to the masters to learn. It makes sense. You learn film by studying the masters of film, sculpture by studying the masters of sculpture, the culinary arts by studying their masters, and music by studying masters of music. You learn what the forms are By_Dana_Gibsonwithout becoming just an imitator of your contemporaries, which is highly possible if you study them and them alone.

Pinsky warns of the dangers of falling into group-think, of mimicking a voice or style or sensibility because you see it has rewards and you want those same rewards too. Of course the rewards of poetry and particularly eco-poetry have, so far at least, not been great.

Poet activism isn’t exactly a new thing, but in respect to defending nature it almost certainly is. Even poems written long ago that certainly belong in any eco-poetry canon are in the nature of one-offs: outliers in the warrior poetry universe.

Click this link to view the rest of this post by Dennis Fritzinger: Ecopoet’s Top 12 Books
 

Here are your latest poems:


“When i wrapped my arms halfway ’round a doomed grandmother pine at dawn – and, crying, i prayed for her deliverance.”Susan McCampbell Ring – Cove-Mallard2
 
 
 
 
“Something about a fawn gives a doe a special supply of fearlessness”
Steve Toth – Mother Nature

 
 
 
 
“I cannot see the way in this bamboo wood, but the birds sing and there is the chirp and bellow of frogs–”Rayn Roberts – Secrets From Mountains Above Nagoya
 
 
 
 
“i watch you, as the sky, the empty air, no breath. no life. but you. what are you?”Amanda Leigh Maloney - Strange Poem
 
 
 
 
“In the wind-like whistling song of the starling perched. In the golden yellow flashing light of fireflies. In the vast panoramic corridors of consciousness.”Gary Mennie – Skylands
 
 
 
 
“I think this is the prettiest world — so long as you don’t mind a little dying, how could there be a day in your whole life that doesn’t have its splash of happiness?”Marry Oliver - Kingfisher


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Ecopoetry: Top 12 Books On My Warriorpoet’s Bookshelf

In the new anthology “Singing School, Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry” Robert Pinsky tells us poets to go back to the masters to learn. It makes sense. You learn film by studying the masters of film, sculpture by studying the masters of sculpture, the culinary arts by studying their masters, and music by studying masters of music. You learn what the forms are By_Dana_Gibsonwithout becoming just an imitator of your contemporaries, which is highly possible if you study them and them alone.

Pinsky warns of the dangers of falling into group-think, of mimicking a voice or style or sensibility because you see it has rewards and you want those same rewards too. Of course the rewards of poetry and particularly eco-poetry have, so far at least, not been great.

Poet activism isn’t exactly a new thing, but in respect to defending nature it almost certainly is. Even poems written long ago that certainly belong in any eco-poetry canon are in the nature of one-offs: outliers in the warrior poetry universe.

AliceWalkerIt’s only when we get to the last century (in the English language, and particularly, the American tongue) that we find poets whose ecological sensibilities pervade their poetry. The more familiar to us, because still alive, is Gary Snyder, but before Gary there was Robinson Jeffers, and there are others as well.

Besides offering what I view as the 12 most important titles on my bookshelf, I want readers to know they aren’t alone in their concern for the earth or in trying to express that concern in poetry, either as flaming arrows, or something a little less dramatic but still deeply felt.

download1) A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold: I first heard about this book from Dave Foreman when the original Earth First! Roadshow stopped in Berkeley. It was part of his stage performance (“The Speech”), specifically the story Leopold tells about encountering a wolf in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. Leopold was a young ranger and, as he put it, “full of trigger itch”. He and some other rangers were out on horseback when they saw a wolf and two cubs in the distance. I won’t spoil the story by telling what happened next, but it’s a famous story and has been retold many times.

A concept-heavy book with many great quotes and turns of thought, perhaps the most important one is this: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” This book is known as a classic in its field, but I’m tempted to say that’s selling it short. It is literally without peer.

RobinsonJeffers

2) Selected Poems by Robinson Jeffers: This small book is a great read and very portable. There are anthology pieces like “Hurt Hawks” and “Shine, Perishing Republic”, as well as many others with the glorious imagery of the rugged California coast.

Jeffers is no simple nature poet, however, as he brings ideas into his poetry, ideas that have not proved popular with some people since he is critical of governments and the human species as a whole. You might think of him as a misanthrope who likes (some) people. He thinks humans are in general too full of themselves, consequently his philosophy he termed “inhumanism”—meaning, I take it, the opposite of “humanism”.

Today he would probably say he was a biocentrist, albeit one deeply distrustful of people. I recommend this book because of its many great poems but also its introduction to Jeffers’ thought, which is perhaps the fresher for being occasionally abrasive.

Abbey3) The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey: Widely credited as the inspiration for Earth First! After getting my degree at San Francisco State and supporting myself playing tournament chess for a few years, I was running out of money so I decided to go back to school so I could take advantage of the G.I. Bill. I enrolled in Merritt College in Oakland and signed up for basically every science course they had. I took courses in biology, botany, marine biology, oceanography, geology, paleontology, astronomy, river studies, and desert studies.

One of the books on the reading list for Desert Studies was the acclaimed “Desert Solitaire” by Edward Abbey, which I enjoyed so much that when I finished I went to Cody’s Books (the late, great Berkeley bookstore) to see what else by the author I could find. As it happened the store had just got in a shipment of his latest book, a novel titled “The Monkey Wrench Gang”. It was like no book I had ever read, a comic, rollicking masterpiece about a pride of desert lovers driving around the Southwest, trying to save the desert that they loved. Needless to say the book made a great impression on me, as it did (it turned out) on many other people. Abbey, the thoughtful anarchist and social gadfly, created as memorable a cast of characters as you’ll find in a novel. It would be difficult to imagine an Earth First! appearing on the scene when it did, without it.

Bly
4) News of the Universe: Poems of Two-Fold Consciousness by Robert Bly. Looking back over my copy of this ground-breaking anthology I’m reminded of the piquant analysis of western history and thought, particularly as represented by the “Enlightenment”. Bly was getting at a biocentric way of thinking and writing. Bly says most people experienced the world before the Enlightenment as a place of wonder, but after the Enlightenment it became more and more just something to exploit. As Bly puts it, “more and more people were on that boat”. But then, Bly says, there was a push-back. The Romantic poets and others offered counter-argument, and though this remained a minority position for quite a while, given the state of the environment today it’s looking more and more like it’s the correct one.

Besides the essays scattered throughout the book developing these ideas, Bly showers us with poems (in English) from around the world. Poems from the Inuit, Navajo, European nations, and of course the Americas (North and South) show us that the “majority position” is by no means universally accepted. Much of the strength of this book comes from its multiculturalism.

EarthPrayers

5) Earth Prayers by Elizabeth Roberts, Elias Amidon: Like the Bly anthology, this collection ranges world-wide. Focuses on the spiritual side of things. This book was featured at a reading at Gaia Bookstore, a bookstore in Berkeley that no longer exists but was a favorite of mine. I met the authors there and gave them a copy of the Warrior Poet newsletter I had published. Elizabeth took one look at it and exclaimed “The Work!” That’s when I knew we were on the same page. Gaia bookstore’s name still exists in the Gaia building, which hosts the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley.

Earth Prayers became a best-seller and remains in print. It is a good size for backpacking (always important to us nature lovers) and has many inspiring prayers and poems gathered from the world’s traditions. There’s also a good lead-in by the authors that give you a better sense of where they’re coming from. Suffice it to say, for them prayer was a way of coming to grips with the environmental crisis and overcoming the heavy sense of depression they felt as they saw nature’s systems crashing all around the world. The poems and prayers in the book are a way of re-connecting to the world, a way of healing the immense hurt that knowledge inflicts. Consequently the book isn’t a downer but a wise companion.

small-planet6) Poems for a Small Planet by Robert Pack, Jay Parini: An obvious take-off on the title of the famous “Diet for a Small Planet” by Frances Moore Lappe, the editors make no bones about why they put this book together. It’s the poets’ response to the environmental crisis.

This book is more like a standard poetry anthology. The poems in it are contemporary, with many familiar and unfamiliar names. What makes it different from the aforementioned books is the poets are all American, and all contemporary. There are introductions by both editors that seek to explain why they put the book together in the first place, and while that’s good, it’s their sure eye for picking out what to include that wins me over. Simply put, the poems are a look at what is being written today (well, at the time the book came out, at least), what people’s concerns were, the level of concern, how informed they were about the world around them. A little too big to take backpacking, it’s still an important addition to the warrior poets bookshelf.

JohnDaniel

7) Wild Song by John Daniel – As a longtime poetry editor for the Wilderness Society’s publication, the poems in his book are drawn from its pages. Anyone who edits a poetry section for an environmental magazine has to straddle two worlds – the world of poetry and the world of the environment. These poems, first published by the Wilderness Society, fit in neatly to the traditions of wilderness and wilderness protection in America. Poets submitting their poems to the magazine did it for a reason – they were attracted to its concerns and work. Consequently if the poems did get published, you know they were going to fit in with that tradition.

Daniel says the poems selected, “…decry ecological injuries, celebrate nature’s beauties and point to its many mysteries, and bear witness to our ever-available opportunity to recognize ourselves as rightful members of the evolutionary flow of earthly life.

John Daniel is one of very few long-term poetry editors in the field, and that gives this small volume a certain weight. Not the best dimensions for a back pocket, but it fits nicely into the side or front pocket of a backpack.

snyderolder
8) The Gary Snyder Reader: Prose, Poetry, and Translations: Gary Snyder is undoubtedly the most famous eco-poet of our time. He practically created the genre, and this book shows his thinking in both poetry and prose. As a treat, it even recounts the genesis of “Smokey the Bear Sutra”, Snyder’s blend of West, East, and Ecology all in one poem.

I picked this book to represent Snyder because it shows the range of his thought and writing skills better even than his selected poems, his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Turtle Island”, which I also could have chosen, or any of his other books, of which he has many. Anyone interested in a genre called “eco-poetry” absolutely has to experience Snyder’s work.

Swann

9) Poetry Comes Up Where it Can by Brian Swann: Brian edited, and I think still edits, the poetry section for The Amicus Journal (now OnEarth) for the NRDC. A terrific book, and very portable.

Brian Swann is the poetry editor of many years for Amicus (now OnEarth), the publication of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Brian details how he got the job in an amusing anecdote, and we are lucky he did since the two collections he created from its pages (this, with an introduction by Mary Oliver, is the second) are both keepers. Of the two, however, this is my favorite, probably because it has so many great poems in it I can’t find anyplace else, not to mention that it fits comfortably in the side pocket of my cargo pants.

Felstiner

10) Can Poetry Save The Earth? by John Felstiner: A scholarly look at American eco-poetry. This is a great book we celebrated at a tribute reading at the Berkeley Ecology Center. The book is more a scholarly work than it is a poetry anthology. So anyone looking for a scholarly approach to American eco-poetry will find this book an indispensable guide to the field. John will quote a few lines in writing about the poet, but then you will have to go to the library to get the rest of the poem. This may turn some readers off, but it does overcome the weakness of the “anthology” approach, which is to select a few favorites or anthology pieces when there is often much more to discover by the individual poet.

The answer to the title’s question is, not by itself, it can’t. But that’s beside the point. Poetry inspires people to act. Poetry also expresses deep-seated emotions, and sometimes those deep-seated emotions get turned into actions in the real world.

Nanao

11) How to Live on the Planet Earth by Nanao Sakaki – A close friend of Gary Snyder’s, poet, and vagabond, Nanao’s influence in this country is starting to grow; in his native Japan he is already well-known.

I met Nanao at a Rainforest Activists Conference in San Francisco at Fort Mason. He was on a panel and I don’t remember what he said but I remember him being there. I had come to hear him because I had read his book “Break the Mirror” published by Blackberry Press in Maine by Earth First! poet Gary Lawless. I thought it was terrific and wanted to meet him

Lawless published several other of Nanao’s books, and sadly, this is likely to be the last since Nanao, eternal wanderer, is now off walking the star road. Yet he leaves us these impressive poems where we can accompany him on many other walks, some as far away as the other side of the universe. (I should also mention he’s also very funny at times.)

ecopoetry12) Eco-Poetry Anthology by Ann Fisher-Worth, Laura Gray-Street: Finally somebody had to come out with this title. A hefty tome, not suitable for backpacking, but a substantial contribution to the emerging eco-canon.

This is the last book I’ll recommend here. Its breadth is simply breath-taking, and it follows the familiar formula of having an introduction by its editor or editors explaining their take on current eco-poetry, followed by the selections they have made. This is only the most recent contribution to the eco-poetry genre, so stay tuned! We’ll let you know as more cross the Warriorpoets desk.

–Dennis Fritzinger


How Does A Warrior Poem Differ From A Nature Poem?

by Dennis Fritzinger

Someone said the poet’s role in an age of ecological catastrophe is to grieve. Just the knowledge of the changes the planet is going through produces pain and suffering in the poet and that’s how grieving or pain and suffering makes it into the poem, often in subtle, but sometimes not-so-subtle ways.

GreenManAnother thing that might happen is the poet puts on a mask and becomes a part of earth that is being diminished or even destroyed. The poet can give that “Other” a voice, much like in the Council of All Beings. The poet’s metamorphosis can produce a poem that couldn’t happen in the poet’s normal voice. It’s the difference between poetry and polemic.

In fact I often say that it’s a poet’s responsibility — the warrior poet’s job — to give a voice to the voiceless. Speak up! for nature, by letting nature speak up for itself.

Then there’s the grief part. What we feel in our personal lives, and that requires knowledge, can produce feelings of grief, even strong feelings of grief. These then can appear in the poems we write, either as a walk-on part or center stage. An entire poem may be a ritual of grieving. But, as I said, knowledge is necessary — you have to follow what’s going on (I read a lot) or be able to see it with your own eyes and think about it with your own brain.

So it’s important to process the information that comes to you. So important. Yet hard to do, there’s so much of it. And making sense of it–the processing–isn’t always easy. Being poets, we are language workers. Each of us has developed, or in process of developing, our own unique voice or way of saying things, which is all tangled up with our way of seeing things of course. And then there’s what we see and think about.

A lot of this flows out of our daily life. If we are lucky enough to have pursued a path in science, we’re half-way there already. But it doesn’t have to be science, it could be farming, or working as a forest ranger, or having any number of passions that involve the outdoors–surfing and rock-climbing, to name a few. Get the body involved, and the head will follow. Then the words will come.

Surfing
BearingWitness

That still leaves the question of where the line is between a nature poem and a warrior poem, since they both deal with nature. On one side of the divide there’s just nature in all its fecundity and beauty, nature as it would be if it was left alone by us. On the other side, there’s the human presence–everything we’ve done to alter the earth. That’s the raw material.

And we, as human beings, as poets, find it necessary at times to protest our own specie’s behavior. That’s when we express our grief, our anger, our outrage in our poetry. Or celebrate it, if for instance we have just joined together to take out a dam or cut a fishing net off a trapped whale.

At the very least we need to bear witness, like the Quakers. Warrior poetry is also a poetry of bearing witness.


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Congratulations to Lucille Lang Day

Lucille_Lang_Day
 
 
 
 

Happy Birthday Lucille! Congratulations on your PEN Oakland award. It was fun reading with you & Kirk in the botanical garden last summer and hearing your great poetry.

I remember how we drove around looking for the garden, which wasn’t exactly easy to find for first-timers. Then we walked among the potted plants set out on sale, and talked to the docents and helped ourselves to some of the food (pizza, mostly) laid out on folding tables in a corner of the garden.

The poets read under a partial canopy which shielded them from some of the fierce sun that time of year, but the audience (small, attentive) had no shade at all as they sat in front of the stage in a natural amphitheater.

–Dennis
 
 
 
 
 

You can read Lucille Lang Day’s poetry on our website here. Lucille’s two published books of science-heavy poetry are “Infinities” and “The Curvature of Blue”.


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3 Deep Green Poetry Editors

Besides the Earth First! Journal, which has always been a home for deep green poetry, there are three other publications worthy of note that have attracted many fine nature poets and published many fine poems.

They are Wilderness, published by the Wilderness Society; OnEarth (formerly Amicus Journal), published by the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council); and Orion, published by the Orion Society.
onearth
Brian Swann, poetry editor for OnEarth/Amicus, has been on the job the longest, with John Daniel, poetry editor for Wilderness, close behind. Orion’s poetry editor, Hannah Fries, came to Orion as an intern in 2005.

Not only are these three editors of periodicals, two of them are also editors of anthologies, which are better for sticking in a backpack or pocket of a field jacket. These collections are words to share at campfires, words to read to the trees, words to declaim at the beach.

Out of all of them, Brian Swann may be the best of the bunch, though it’s a close call. Besides editing poetry for an incredibly long time (3 or 4 decades) he’s produced two books, the more recent being Poetry Comes Up Where It Can, which is a line in a poem by Homero Aridjis. It also pretty much describes the healthy state of so much fresh pure green poetry as works of living ecology and hydrology currently rising:
5195VVHCW7L._SY300_

among boulders charging madly upstream;
to feel its handle yank at and flutter half free
of your fingers; to catch that dim chime
stainless steel barely gives off, nicking rock
underwater; to wet shirt-cotton with dribbles
so icy the frontal lobes ache like migraine
after each swallow; then, as that fades,
to dip again to the bottom of the world’s well
which around here is snowpack so near to the sky
that’s pretty much what it tastes like,
you could borrow this cup.

(by Reg Saner, from anthology:Poetry Comes Up Where It Can)

And then in John Daniel’s book, Wild Song, there is equal beauty and wonder — it includes many of the same poets as Swann’s collection. Especially when it comes to throwing out a hook in the first few lines that drags the reader in. For example, the beginning of “Camping in the Cascades” by Joseph Powell:

Hungry for bootprints, shades of differences,
we’ve come to think like the earth.

Or the opening lines of “Chainsaw” by Roger Jones:

The way it pops and razzes
and grumbles under its breath,

In his preface Daniel’s writes: “Early in 1988 I wrote Tom Watkins, editor of Wilderness, urging him to publish poetry in the magazine. To my surprise, and perhaps to his, Tom wrote back, ‘Why don’t we give it a shot? You’re the poetry editor.’”

As editors of green poetry we’ve an obligation to not give up on unearthing (cultivating) a green poem in all its many varieties, whenever and wherever it arises. The poems these particular editors choose are the healing edge of Green Poetry!

bannerAll us editors recommend you try going through these publications and landing on any page (and any poem), it’s a real treat! Not just in “this is a great poem” sense, but “this is a great green poem” sense. The color of the poem makes a difference, after all.

And some may ask why does any of this matter?

First, I’m grateful that other publications, have devoted ink and electrons to the true task of the warriorpoet. Second, I’m grateful that major organizations are discriminating enough to find green poetry editors. And finally, third, the green poet’s/poem’s task itself: bring the non-human into the equation.

 

That task is what seems both ecologically correct and humble. The human animal is perhaps most human when it is most humble, or at least I think so.

Finally, I’ve come to the conclusion that the necessity that editors of green poetry are most concerned with is the necessity of quashing the human ego long enough so the rest of our living earth can speak and be spoken for. And this green poetic voice we curate, it’s still young.

May this young bear cub we call green poetry grow old and wise and one day roar like a giant mama bear protecting her young.

Howls!

Dennis Fritzinger
Chief cook and bottle washer
Warrior Poets Society


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