fallen leaves arranged in three lines as if a visual haiku

Ecopoetry in the classroom and beyond – some resources and ideas

This post is a document of links to resources I’ve used in recent ecopoetry and nature poetry workshops and for my own writing. I’ve found these short films and poems helpful in classrooms, and elsewhere, in developing conversations and creative responses to the climate crisis. Some of the resources I mention were also included in a post I wrote in 2019 ‘Poetry responding to climate change’.

I brought this short film Rise: From One Island to Another into a Year 9 workshop (young people aged 14 – 15). The film is a poetic conversation between two islanders, one from the Marshall Islands and one from Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), connecting their realities of melting glaciers and rising sea levels. Other helpful resources have been the Climate Change and the Anthropocene issues of Magma poetry magazine, and the Ecojustice issue of Poetry magazine.

The poem ‘The loss of birds’ by Nan Craig (published in the Climate Change issue of Magma) – which imagines a conversation between an adult and a child who has never known birds – has been particularly good at prompting poems that consider what we are in danger of losing because of the climate crisis. The poem begins “Of all the losses I think the loss of birds / has been the hardest. Strangest. / Whole days pass, now, as / I struggle to explain them to you.” I couldn’t find the poem online but I’ve shared it on Twitter so it can be read below.

The poem ‘Peril Sonnet’ by David Baker (published in Poetry and available online here) also addresses environmental threats. “Where do you suppose / they’ve gone the bees now / that you don’t see them / anymore four-winged / among flowers low / sparks in the clover…” the poem begins.

In this post from 2019, you can see and hear Simon Armitage reading his poem ‘Ark’ which he wrote to commemorate the launch of the UK’s new polar research ship, the ‘Sir David Attenborough’. Text to the poem is available here. Michael Rosen described the poem as “…full of the depth of the crisis, the resonance of survival taken from the Noah story and anglo-Saxon alliteration… great for intertextual ‘conversation’ between bible and climate change!”

Anthologies of ecopoetry and nature poetry, and themed issues of magazines, as mentioned above, are a wonderful resource and means of discovering poets engaging with environmental issues. Recently I’ve been dipping into 100 Poems to Save the Earth (Seren, 2021). The Ginkgo Prize anthologies have also been helpful to me and recent poems from the prize are available online here.

In 2023, I’ve been facilitating workshops for Trowbridge Museum, making use of some of its natural history archives, in particular a beautiful herbarium of dried plants and flowers collected by poet, botanist and clergyman George Crabbe who lived and is buried in Trowbridge. I’ve worked with people and families aged seven to adult, making visual poems and collages inspired by Crabbe’s work and love of nature. The workshops were an opportunity for participants of all ages to closely observe, draw, write and talk about wildflowers and plants and their wildlife benefits. More about these workshops here.

A child's drawing of a dandelion and other flora.
beautiful drawing and colouring by M from Josephine’s Visual Poetry workshop

One thing I’ve noticed about my recent work with young people is how knowledgeable they are about the environment and how much they value a means of expressing their feelings about the natural world and the climate emergency. Sometimes, a poem printed out and posted on a classroom/workshop wall is all it takes to spark discussions and prompt creative eco writing. Here are links to some poems that you might like to share.

‘Bats’ by Sarah Westcott

‘Hedgehog, Hamnavoe’ by Jen Hadfield

‘Sea Holly‘ by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett and Tony Lopez

‘Karwinski’s fleabane’ by L Kiew

‘A Short Story of Falling’ by Alice Oswald

‘Llyn Gwynant’ (about wild swimming) by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett

‘Lily’ by Sarah Westcott

I know that the resources I’ve included are only a tiny fraction of what’s available, so please add your own ideas, responses and resources in the comments to make this post as useful as possible. As always, thank you for reading.

Three pieces of paper with birch leaves arranged on them in lines as if poems.  Text reads quatrain of birch leaves, couplet of birch leaves, tercet of birch leaves.
Examples of visual poems using natural materials – more examples in this post

PS – Someone on Twitter has just reminded me of this short film I tweeted in 2021. It’s from the Financial Times when the “FT Weekend Festival commissioned poet Inua Ellams to write a response to Keats’s classic work ‘To Autumn’ marking his 200th anniversary. The animated poem ‘To John’ exposes the impact of humans on nature over those 200 years.”

5 thoughts on “Ecopoetry in the classroom and beyond – some resources and ideas”

  1. Thank you pulling those ideas so succinctly together and making a resource for us. I have just published, ‘I heard the river laugh,’ an illustrated chapbook on climate change on the Holderness Plain, where I live. Available from Amazon, but also free as an unlocked pdf file by dropping me a line at clivelap@gmx.com.
    Samples are at http://www.clivelap.com
    The poetry concentrates on easy science, so it’s also a resource from a science teacher. Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

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