Between Monday 11th and Friday 15th May 2020 — Week 5 of our Quarantine Connection — we posted contributions from Evgenia Emets, Julian Bishop, Kelvin Smith, Rajat Chaudhuri and Selva Ozelli. You can find the full, week-by-week listing at Quarantine Connection.
Day 25 — Kelvin Smith: Let’s Not Dwell On The Dead Hedgehog
Kelvin Smith is a writer and campaigner engaging publishers in the Climate Crisis, to act now for decisive moves to repurpose publishing for the new age of climate adaptation. He is based in Suffolk, England.
Kelvin says of this piece:
“I went to the nearby beach today after eight weeks of staying at home. This is what I wrote about that going out and the unexpected thing I found on my return.”
Let’s not dwell on the dead hedgehog
Let’s not dwell on the dead hedgehog
After the walk on the low-tide beach –
The first for eight weeks –
Wind and light late early morning time.
It lay across the garden hose when we returned,
A recent kill by cat or hawk,
Bloody at one end of the spade that carried it
Out of sight now.
So let’s not dwell on the dead hedgehog.
Day 24 — Evgenia Emets: Forest Codex
Evgenia Emets is an artist intersecting land-art, sound and visual poetry through experiences, forests, artist books, calligraphy, performance, objects and community engagement, and whose ‘Eternal Forest’ integrates ecological thinking. She is based in Ericeira, Portugal.
Evgenia says of this piece:
“Since Covid I have been going through deep transformation like many others around me. I have had my emotional ups and downs, facing old patterns, which kept coming to the light, asking to be addressed, dealt with, worked through. I have sat with old and new fears, ones that I own and ones that I recognize come from our common field of consciousness. I have been celebrating new moon and full moon in my home, seeding wildflowers in my garden, learning about local plants in the nearby forest and letting Eternal Forest guide me.
“Day after day I was witnessing that people realise that more than ever we need nature. I have been hearing this realisation again and again through all my channels: friends’ emails, podcasts, interviews, virtual encounters, and zoom workshops. My hope is that this realisation quietly enters the hearts and the minds of humanity to bring a different kind of awareness and make us rethink our everyday actions. During these days I have been rooting and grounding in the vision of the Eternal Forest that emerged over the past three years, which I will gradually share with you here, on Climate Cultures. So I am inviting you to feel into how this may sound and resonate with you right now.
“Eternal Forest is an on-going multidisciplinary art project and the vision to create 1,000 Eternal Forest Sanctuaries across the World, protected for 1,000 years. It explores the human relationship with forests, biodiversity, time and nature through art. Looking at a timeline beyond human life — a hundred, a thousand, 10,000 years, how can art be created with a ‘deeper time’ in mind?
“An Eternal Forest Sanctuary is an offering, a gift of an old-growth biodiverse forest to future generations. Today, old-growth forests are few; many people have never experienced the awe of being in the presence of a 1000-year-old being. Eternal Forest is the vision to make this experience possible for those who come after us. It is an invitation to become part of history, by co-creating a new kind of ecological artwork: establishing an Eternal Forest Sanctuary for 1000 years.
“The Eternal Forest art project builds awareness of the beauty and the deep impact a biodiverse forest and nature can have on our lives, but it also aims to create beautiful natural spaces that positively contribute to local biodiversity. It considers the human need for time and space for contemplation, for regeneration in natural time and space, for a deeper connection with nature. The purpose of these spaces is to find and reinvent ways of being in nature, encourage quiet and contemplative activities, such as: forest bathing and meditation, mindful walks and ecopsychology, learning and creating with nature, community gatherings and celebrations of nature’s cycles, while helping the forest to grow. Eternal Forest Sanctuary is a combination of art, nature protection, and community working together. The design and creation of Eternal Forest is an on-going collaborative work between artists, scientists, forest experts, ecosystem restoration and reforestation experts – to help understand the cycles of nature, the effects of climate change on the forest ecosystem and biodiversity, driven and organised by the local communities.”
I soar between
Ridges of mountains
Valley after valley
Streams come down
From all directions
Everything is motion
My gaze connects all
My ears hear
Continuity of sound
Life is never quiet
I see no borders
Every living being
The future is mutual
We must imagine
It is a slow turning
Day 23 — Rajat Chaudhuri: Heat or the Iceberg Chill, translation
Rajat Chaudhuri is a bilingual writer and activist whose works include eco-disaster novel The Butterfly Effect and has worked with international NGOs and the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. He is based in Calcutta, India.
Rajat says of this piece:
“I write climate and eco-fiction and take a deep interest in speculative writing of all sorts. We already know how climate change and unsustainable consumption, including destruction of biodiversity, can be implicated in zoonotic disease outbreaks and while the jury is out on Covid-19 it might well be the case (as some experts say) that our unsustainable living has got a role to play in triggering the current pandemic. For a writer living and working in south Asia, it has been somewhat frustrating for me to find very few creative engagements with climate in my part of the world, an area seriously threatened by the impacts of climate change. It was therefore heartening to find a poet from Bangladesh engaging with climate change in her work. Bangladesh is not only our neighbour, we also share a language and the part of India where I live is equally threatened by the climate impacts that Bangladesh faces.
“As I was already working on a project to translate 100 Bengali poems by non-mainstream poets with a strong message or a very unique style, I found this poem by Novera Hossain to be a perfect fit for my anthology. While I am on the lookout for a good publisher who is ready to share the rich undercurrents of Bengali poetry to a larger English-speaking audience I thought it would be appropriate to put up some of these translated poems as Youtube and Facebook videos. The response has been encouraging and I’m hoping this anthology will soon find a good home.
“Anyone interested in my other work of translation or in general about my novels or climate essays please visit www.rajatchaudhuri.net and follow me on Twitter. Publishers of translated poetry are especially welcome. It would be great to connect!”
Heat or the Iceberg Chill
A poem about climate change written by Novera Hossain from Bangladesh and translated by Rajat Chaudhuri from the original Bengali. Reproduced with the permission of the author.
People have been saying it’s hotter this year.
You’re saying the same, and certain others are saying this too …
It won’t be necessary to speed up things—
Like driving nails to ripen jackfruits,
The heat will do the job,
The floor has become scorching hot
Even air-conditioning is not enough
Instant Power Supply is failing.
Yes, and what else did you say?
Women are all scaling the Himalayas,
Unfurling the national flag on the Everest
Three Sherpas perish in terrible snowstorm!
No, the heat isn’t subsiding this time
Everyone is completely drained
What are you saying? You’re also completely withered
And dead within?
You’ll now give up writing?
Scented flowers are blooming at Mirpur intellectual burial ground
It’s too difficult to go in!
White gardenias have covered the bodies of the dead!
No, this graveyard won’t do for much longer
Number of people increasing, fans growing in number, and lights, and generators
IPS companies are no more able to increase production.
What did you say, your blood pressure has also increased?
Amdocal’s not working, Losartan? No.
This summer the taste of water has also changed
What is Dhaka Water Supply distributing from home to home?
The fire engines couldn’t enter Lalbagh,
Forty were charred.
What? You feel you love me a lot,
And no one will be able to understand it,
All this time, you too hadn’t realised this completely!
The scorching `loo’ is blowing in Rajsahi,
Poets flock no more to Rajsahi, all head for the capital;
What, you’re still in Jessore?
Sitting by a lake, it’s raining?
Yes tell me, what, you desperately wish to see me?
No, had to get up this time to open the windows
A tornado crossed Dhaka this moment.
What did you say, still the heat hasn’t decreased?
By my watch it’s two-thirty in the night, can I go to sleep?
Couldn’t hear what you said just now.
(Translated from the Bengali by Rajat Chaudhuri)
About the poet: Novera Hossain studied and pursued research in anthropology at university level in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and after a teaching stint has taken to writing full-time. She has published six collections of verse and two short story collections. She has also edited an online magazine and published an edited volume of the poetry of Shameem Kabir. Hossain’s work appeals with its powerful imagery, a very original use of language and structure besides the journeys of discovery and revelation that they take us on. Her poetry and other writing appear in various Bengali language literary magazines and newspapers of Bangladesh, India and United States. Hossain describes herself as romantic, humanist and Bohemian in equal proportions. She lives in Dhaka with her engineer husband and daughter. Her favourite poets are Binoy Majumdar and Tomas Tranströmer.
Day 22 — Selva Ozelli: Tsunami / Chasing the Quarantine Blues Away
Selva Ozelli is an environmentalist working as an artist, writer, international tax attorney and public accountant, who has curated a Climate Change Art Show at Balat Culture Center, Istanbul. She is based in Istanbul, Turkey, and New York, USA.
Selva says of this piece:
“I have been keeping creatively very busy during these quarantine-blue days by painting, writing, curating a Climate Change Art Show and entering several international art and writing competitions.
“My fourteen oil paintings, along with fellow ClimateCultures members Rana Balkis’ and Renan Kaleli’s coronavirus related artworks were recently selected for the United Nation’s COVID19 Artwork open brief. And my coronavirus oil painting, ‘Coronavirus Hits’, was shortlisted at the international Art in the Time of Corona competition held by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
“At the end of this month I will also be part of the Atelier Teymur Rzayev’s Climate Change Art Show in Istanbul, from May 30 to June 12. Interviews with all attending artists can be found here. Those who are already in Istanbul during those dates can join us at the opening of the Climate Change Art Show. I hope others will enjoy the climate change work of our Atelier online.”
You can explore more of Selva’s work via her ClimateCultures profile.
Day 21 — Julian Bishop: The Hunt
Julian Bishop is a former journalist, environment reporter and tv news editor who writes poetry about eco issues and was runner-up in the 2018 Ginkgo Poetry Prize. He is based in London, England.
Julian says of this piece:
“I took up a challenge from a fellow member of Poets for the Planet (Jacqueline Saphra) to write a sonnet a day during lockdown. I haven’t succeeded but have managed a couple of dozen or so. They’re not polished but I wanted a raw record of my thoughts from day to day and inevitably the climate has crept into many of the poems. The Hunt was written quite early on, and touches on a theme that I guess has become more broadly acknowledged as time goes on — how animals are starting to move into human spaces.”
Such silent nights – roads breathless
as if they were infected. What we’d lost –
constant traffic, the drizzle of exhaust –
as invisible and insidious as asbestos
or the virus itself. Then a blood-clabbering
sound emerged: a nightly chorus,
foxes hollering like a hunt in reverse –
as if hounded animals were fighting
back. A beastly untameable disease
stalked the streets while humans retreated
like quarry to a den, our vulnerabilities
sniffed out by a hungry meat-eater.
Lives on pause for weeks – it smacked
of wild animals getting their own back.