Poetry and Climate Change event at Enitharmon – 15th February

On Thursday 15 February, Enitharmon Editions were delighted to host Poetry & Climate Change: a poetry reading and discussion with poets Nancy Campbell and Mario Petrucci. Led by LAHP PhD students Clara De Massol De RebetzRiognach Sachs and Rianna Walcott, our two highly unique poets were encouraged to explore the dialogic role of art, and poetry in particular, in this politically contentious, globally vital issue.

When audience members had taken their seats, glasses of wine in hand, Clara de Massol opened the event with a speech. She welcomed the audience and poets, and considered the aim of the event: to explore the intersection between climate change and literature.

Rioghnach Sachs then introduced the poets, Nancy Campbell and Mario Petrucci. Nancy and Mario then read examples of their work which particularly resonate with issues of climate change to a rapt audience. Nancy Campbell, author of ‘Disko Bay’, spoke from experience of artistic residencies across Greenland and areas arguably most keenly affected by global warming; and Mario Petrucci, author of ‘Flowers of Sulphur’ and recipient of a PhD in optoelectronics, spoke about art- its impact and its purposes- with specialist scientific knowledge.

Rianna Walcott then led a question and answer session with the poets, inviting the audience to contribute questions during the discussion rather than waiting until the end to ask questions. What followed was an organic, naturally flowing discussion with the poets.

The main themes of the discussion included the value and expectations of poetry as a response to climate change, as well as the limitations of the art form in encouraging effective responses to climate change. The poets’ own experiences were also brought to bear, with Nancy discussing her time working with Inuits and using ice in her work, and Mario considering his experiences as a science teacher and using poetry in the classroom. We also discussed issues of “positionality” and the “right to write” about issues outside of your own experience, which invited impassioned contributions from the audience.

The discussion took a lively turn, with a highly engaged audience participating in the discussion and posing questions which drew out a very informative, entertaining series of responses, including a spontaneous break-out into song. The poets’ responses were sensitive, intelligent, and from Mario, at times, subversively eccentric – one of his responses being an impromptu rendition of “In the Jungle”! An accolade true of only the finest cultural events.

We had a lovely time organising the event, and gained some useful experience both in running events and collaborating across disciplines through our work in liasing with the poets, marketing the event, preparing questions, and managing the evening. A huge congratulations to Clara, who chose our topic and spearheaded the event co-ordination. We also owe our thanks to Kathryn McCandless, the manager at Enitharmon, and Valeria Farruggia, the support officer at LAHP, who made things very easy for us, putting us in contact with the Enitharmon poets and helping set up and promote the event at Enitharmon bookshop.

We also, of course, thank the poets for contributing their time, ideas and performances of their work, and finally a warm thanks to Alexandra Hincapie for taking such gorgeous photographs throughout the evening.

About the Poets

In a time of ecological catastrophes and political uncertainty, art and poetry can give us a sense of connection to our planet, they can inspire hope as well as spark collective actions. Together we will explore how poetry can respond to the unpredictability and complexity of climate change, how it can bear witness, urge, lament and record ecological catastrophes in imaginative and thought-provoking ways. We invite you to join the discussion and delve into the intricate relations between poetry and the natural world in a time of climate change.

Nancy Campbell is a writer who works across disciplines, from poetry and essays to publishing artist’s books. A series of residencies with Arctic research institutions between 2010 and 2017 has resulted in many projects responding to climate change in the polar regions. Nancy’s poetry collection Disko Bay(‘a beautiful debut from a deft, dangerous and dazzling new poet’– Carol Ann Duffy) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2016 and the 2017 Michael Murphy Memorial prize.

Mario Petrucci is an award-winning metaphysical poet of international standing, an ecologist and PhD physicist. His book-length poem on Chernobyl, Heavy Water (Enitharmon 2004), captured the prestigious Arvon Prize for poetry. Mario is something of a frontiersman in creative writing projects in the public domain, engaging successfully with the various Imperial War Museum sites and delivering groundbreaking writing packs that tie into science (The Royal Society/ Royal Literary Fund) and ecology (Poetry Society).

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