National Poetry Day: The Poems Tackling the Climate Emergency

Today is National Poetry Day, where we consider the importance and the impact of poetry. Poetry is often used as a medium to challenge tough topics and as a way to explore new ideas.

Just as we saw in Greta Thunberg's speech to the UN, poetry and spoken word can have a serious impact on important issues.

For this occasion, we have rounded up a selection of the best poems that tackle the climate emergency. Each of the following poems discuss the human impact on the planet and consider what we can do to make a difference.

Our top poems about Climate Change for National Poetry Day are:

  • A Climate of Change
  • Ovid on Climate Change
  • Polar Heart
  • A Language of Change
  • Utilomar

"A Climate of Change" by George the Poet

"I'm trying to play my part as an artist but all I

Do is write verses and harmonise melodies. Now, the

Point of us working together on this is that

One of you knows how to decarbonise energy

So if you could consider that when making your plans I'm

Happy to leave it in your capable hands."

British spoken-word artist George the Poet highlights the need for collaboration between the public and corporations in his poem "A Climate of Change." While noting the importance of making a difference through lifestyle changes, George asks the government to listen to the science and really make a difference.

"Ovid on Climate Change" by Eliza Griswold

"Driving the sun too close

to earth, the boy withered rivers,

torched Eucalyptus groves, until the hills

burst into flame,"

Eliza Griswold reimagines the Ovid myth in "Ovid on Climate Change." In this version, Phaetheon, the solar deity, flies the "steeds of Armageddon" too close to the earth. They dry the rivers and burn the hills, just as global warming does. It highlights how humans are to blame for the dangerous effects of a warming planet, and how people have the power to make a difference.

Youth Strike
Youth Strike for Climate Emergency Getty

"Polar Heart" by Simon Barraclough

"I know we have to stay so far apart,

I know the climate needs our hopeless pas de deux

but sometimes at the solstice

I yell "Screw this!"

into the polar gale

and another ice shelf fails"

Poet and writer Simon Barraclough explores the abstract relationship between the North and South Poles in "Polar Heart." Barraclough discusses the dichotomy of the poles as they expand and retract, and ends with a sense of despair as "another ice shelf fails."

"A Language of Change" by David Sergeant

"Together

the weather

is a language we can barely understand;

but confessional experts detect

in the senseless diktat of hurricane

a hymning of our sins, our stupid counterpoint."

David Sergeant contemplates the power of the sea while reflecting on mankind's effect on climate change. As icebergs melt and hurricanes form, the sea is a central element of the changing climate and its dangerous results. In "A Language of Change," Sergeant holds us accountable.

"Utilomar" by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

"Maybe

In one legend

It'll start by saying

in the beginning

was water

water from the sea that flooded our homes our land and now

our only underground reservoir

what we call a fresh water lens

shaped like the front of an eyeball, nestled deep in our coral

feeding on rainwater it watches us, burning"

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner is a poet from the Marshall Islands who addressed the UN Climate Summit in 2014. In her poem "Utilomar," Jetnil-Kijener reflects on the effects of climate change on her country, as well as the similar effects on Minnesota. She considers the future of the planet and the legacies we will leave to our children.

National Poetry Day: The Poems Tackling the Climate Emergency | Culture
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