Writing the Climate
What are our individual roles in the Climate Emergency?
Poet Linda France is the Climate Writer in Residence for New Writing North and Newcastle University. Building on her 2020 residency, from 2021-2022 the Writing the Climate project will create spaces for connection, discussion and personal reflection, which encourage all of us to respond to the Climate Emergency and see ourselves as part of its solution.
Climate Change | System Change | Heart Change
Man-made Global Warming is just one strand of our current ecological crisis, but the only one with a deadline.
Ten years left in our carbon budget is the scientists’ estimate.
Climate change is aggravating the damage already caused by deforestation, intensive agriculture, over-development, pesticide use and pollution. This in turn arises from a culture of domination and alienation, valorising profit rather than the common good. In the 20th century, 50% of the world’s forest was destroyed, and in 2017 woodland loss amounted to the equivalent of one football field every second. This loss of tree cover alone might account for anywhere between 7 and 20% of all C02 emissions.
These dark stories need telling in ways that inspire action and hope.
It is the writer’s task to look deeply into the heart of things and bring back what they find there. We won’t protect what we don’t love and we can’t love what we don’t understand.
When American poet Muriel Rukeyser asked, ‘What three things can never be done?’, her answer was: ‘Forget. Keep silent. Stand alone.’
The process of transformation required by climate adaptation involves a leap in the dark familiar to writers, a cycle of learning, unlearning and relearning.
How can reading and writing help us to respond to the Climate Emergency?
Empathy and understanding
How can reading, writing and discussion help to deepen empathy and understanding, share our appreciation of the natural world, and encourage us to take action?
Language and stories
Do we need different words to express such large-scale complexity and uncertainty, as well as different stories?
Imagination and creativity
Can reading and writing extend our imaginations, so we can create new ways to live, involving overlooked communities and redressing old injustices?
As Linda France nears the end of her climate-writing residency with New Writing North and Newcastle University, we’re excited to co-publish – with our friends at Faber – a collection of her poetry which has come out of the experience. Following her Laurel Prize-winning collection The Knucklebone Floor, Startling is Linda’s tenth book of poems, and a culmination of the work emerging from the last three years.
In the face of climate emergency, Startling calls for a rewilding of the self as well as the landscape, bringing about a necessary shift in our imaginations to counteract the paralysis of alarm – before it’s too late.
A short film by Kate Sweeney, with poetry written and read by Linda France.
“I have taken to counting what I want to call ‘Startlings’. They are creatures who, sensing their species is facing extinction, feel the cell-tingling impulse to evolve and ensure their survival. Within their tissue and bones, hearts and minds, they enact the necessary transformation. For every Endling there is a Startling.”
To celebrate the publication of Linda France’s tenth poetry collection – influenced by her three years of writing the climate – artist Kate Sweeney has created a new film responding to Linda’s words.
Listening to the Climate
Podcast: In Our Element
In Our Element is a poet’s enquiry into climate change. In each episode, Linda France takes an element as a starting point to explore the complexity and challenges of this critical time we live in: Earth, Water, Fire and Air; with, from the Chinese tradition, Wood and Metal; as well as Space and Consciousness, elements that feature in some Buddhist practices. Investigating these help us find common ground to deal with difficult subjects. Is the climate crisis asking for radical system change and a change of hearts and minds? Does it reflect a crisis of the imagination, of consciousness, of global ethics? How might extracting, consuming, travelling and working less benefit our well-being as well as simply bringing down carbon emissions?
Across ten episodes, Linda France talks to activists, engineers, conservationists, academics, thinkers, poets and musicians around the world to hear their take on these questions.
Listening to the Climate is a new podcast discussion group. The conversation will focus on poems included in Linda France’s In Our Element podcast, and issues arising from each episode. We will delve into the work of poets from all over the world, such as Jorie Graham, Inua Ellams, John Kinsella and Nancy Campbell.
The group is an open and friendly space for broad and thoughtful conversation.
We meet via Zoom every second Tuesday of the month at 6 – 7.30 pm, and new listeners are always welcome. Just book your spot, listen to a 20 minute episode, and come along with your thoughts!
- 8th February – Episode 1: Introduction
- 8th March – Episode 2: Earth
- 12th April – Episode 3: Water
- 10th May – Episode 4: Fire
- 14th June – Episode 5: Air
- 12th July – Episode 6: Wood
- 9th August- Episode 7: Metal
- 13th September – Episode 8: Space
- 11th October – Episode 9: Consciousness
- 8th November – Episode 10: Regeneration
Join our free monthly Writing Hour
The Writing Hour is an experiment in shared writing time, hosted by Linda France as part of Writing the Climate. This is an opportunity to come together once a month on Zoom and simply write together in silence.
Concentration is contagious and working in a group setting can make a big difference to the energy and awareness we bring to our writing. There will be no preamble or structure apart from a free-writing prompt, with half an ear on the weather and the world around us, to get us started. We will write for around 50 minutes and there will be a brief (entirely non-compulsory) space at the end to share any passing thoughts with fellow writers.
The sessions will take place on the 4th Tuesday of each month. You can join for free as many times as you like. Browse our dates and book your space via Eventbrite to recieve the link.
Yours Sincerely: The Climate Letters
In this third and final collective project of Linda France’s Writing the Climate residency, we made an open call to the public to write (and send) a letter about their take on the accelerating climate and ecological crisis. As writers, our superpower is a way with words, and words are energy, making a difference to the world we live in. This was a chance to harness our creativity and skill to lift the way we use our natural resources, to express our feelings and ideas on this crucial subject affecting all our lives now and threatening our children’s future.
The Yours Sincerely installation was in Clayport Library from 11th-15th October. The interactive display included a selection of the letters we received, as well as ten commissioned pieces from writers who have worked with Linda during the course of her three-year residency. It also featured artwork by Gemma Koomen.
You can read some of the letters in an online showcase of the project here.
Murmuration is a collective film poem for our times; an inventory of what really matters, celebrating our love for the natural world in a time of Climate Crisis and Coronavirus. We collected over 450 responses to a public call-out for contributions to Murmuration, which were then scribed, distilled and curated into a single long poem by Linda France, expressing the collective imagination of all who contributed. The lines have been brought to life in an animated film by artist Kate Sweeney, which reflects and offers insights on our connection with this earth, the natural world and each other at this extraordinary moment in time.
Imagine that we have the chance to begin again. What kind of world would you want to wake up in?
In spring 2021 poet Linda France and sound artist Christo Wallers launched an open call for lines to Dawn Chorus, their collective sound poem for the beginning of the world.
Ornithologists believe that birds singing at dawn in springtime are staking a claim to their territory before they choose a mate. They might simply be glad to have survived the long dark night. The light is a signal to begin again so they can just be birds in the world.
Imagine we have the chance to begin again, to start over – like the birds waking up to a new dawn, singing their hearts out. What sort of world do you want to wake up in? How would you greet it? What would your first words be? How would you sing yourself and the world awake?
“Everything is connected and climate change and system change also need a change of hearts and minds: this is where a writer can help – cutting through the clamour and chaos, rather than adding to it. I want to plant some seeds to help people think differently and imagine a more robust, creative and optimistic vision of our shared future that we can grow together.”
Linda France, Climate Writer in Residence
Linda France’s eight full-length poetry collections include: The Simultaneous Dress (Bloodaxe 2002) and The Toast of the Kit-Cat Club (Bloodaxe 2005), You are Her (Arc Publications 2010) and Reading the Flowers (Arc 2016). Linda also edited the acclaimed anthology Sixty Women Poets (Bloodaxe 1993), a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. She completed a PhD on writing, plants and landscape in 2019 and received a Society of Authors Cholmondley Award in 2020.