If Poetry Could Address Climate Change

A searing anthology of eco-poems edited by Vinita Agrawal strips down to the bone the environmental crisis.

Count Every Breath | Ed. Vinita Agrawal | Hawakal | 120 Pages | Rs. 400

Count Every Breath, a powerful and sensitive anthology of Eco-poems, strips down to the bone the environmental crisis. No one is spared in the poems, nothing is concealed. The book stares eco predicament in the eye and hopes to inspire readers to rise and do their bit for the planet. It is important for poetry as an art to address the issue of climate change because words are sharper than weapons in their ability to sensitise readers towards the Earth and the devastation that it is facing. Poetry is a tool to bring about change in society. The slightest nudge through the medium of poems to the reader’s conscience on this matter might bring about actual change in society. Poetry is nothing short of literary activism when it comes to environment and ecology. An excerpt from the anthology.

Forsaking Fossils

Sue’s original semi-crushed skull is bell-jarred

in the previous room. What remains of the bones

dispels Jurassic myths: even if you stood very,

very still - it would be too late to get away.

I river through earth’s documented extinctions

until a red analog number collects our cost:

The normal rate of extinction is one species every four years.

Today, species are going extinct at a rate of 82 species every day.

For four species an hour,

what is the total expense

of my actions today:

— A Kia-sized round trip: Villa Park

to the Field Museum liquifies 6 species


freshly baked bread from Pete’s Market,

homemade peanut chutney from Pune,

organic butter from Wisconsin.

— Taking a snapshot of the rising red digits

(31 species lost by this hour), ignorant

of the ratio of slavery to child labor that

went into my phone’s skeleton.

Growling children meteorite into a single exit:

the gift shop. My hand lingers over a wind chime’s exhale.

Which specimen will their descendants imitate?

I buy nothing.

—Anesce Dremen

Lately, the Colour of Water

To survive in a desert

drink piss

To lose a bloodhound

cross a stream

Just some myths

for the brave

But when sewage raids

artesian wells

and tap water’s the colour

of chocolate

It’s too late for

survival games

—Mani Rao

At the Edge of Lake Memphremagog

I watched a catfish swim in South Bay

near the spill, gills flush, whiskers reaching out,

delighting in deep murk, in the clutter

of plastic forks and mussels, minnow clouds,

milfoil, the treasures of green water, as I

that day, not yet mortal,

delighted in her swirl. Our cancers

would come later.

—Laura Budofsky Wisniewski

(This appeared in the print as '"Documented Extinctions"')