The Poet and the Climate Crisis

The planet’s climate is changing and has been changing for decades now. Fires are worsening, floods swelling, droughts widening and lives and whole ecosystems disappearing. We’re amidst a crisis unlike anything we humans have ever faced before and, with a dwindling window to face it, the stakes are high. But despite the high stakes, it seems we don’t yet know how best to communicate the crisis with language and imagination. And so the role of poets has become crucial. In this six-week, online workshop, we’ll attempt to remedy our failures in language. We’ll strive to make better sense of the catastrophe, to underline and italicize what we most wish to forget, to keep an eye on beauty, and to imagine new language, new lexicons for the kinds of transformation required of us now—individually, culturally, cross-nationally and as a species. Along the way we will:

  • Trace some of the threads of history—like racial capitalism, colonialism, and the numerous modes of inequality across the globe—that have come to cause the crisis, while also attempting to recognize their localized effects on our own communities, environments and climates.
  • Listen to our bodies and our nervous systems, our apathy and our reactive panics, our want to flight and fight and freeze, and we’ll attempt to respond somatically with in-class meditation, movement exercises, journaling, and writing prompts.
  • Study some of the strategies poets around the planet and throughout history have used to innovate and describe the centuries-long ecological/geopolitical crisis we’re in, and attempt some of their strategies ourselves.
  • Stretch the edges of our lexicons and language and ask the question: how does our imaginative capacity for facing the climate crisis depend on how we define it?
  • Merge our perspectives and sensibilities in order to offer each other feedback on our ideas, our attempts, our poem drafts. In this way, we’ll allow our imaginations to coalesce so that we might find new ways, better windows through which to view and address the climate crisis as poets.

The first four weeks of the workshop will be generative, and the final two weeks will be spent workshopping poems. Class sessions will meet synchronously via Zoom, and assignments, poems and critiques will be shared via Wet Ink.

Workshop Details

  • Teacher: b ferguson
  • Level: II
  • Dates: Oct 25–Dec 6, 2023 (Nov 22 off)
  • Time: Wednesdays, 6:30–9:30 pm (ET)
  • Location: online via Zoom
  • Cost: $445
  • Class size: 5–10 students
  • Registration deadline: SUN, OCT 22, 2023
  • Earlybird discount: $15 off through SUN, SEP 10
Bernard Ferguson

b ferguson

b ferguson is a queer Bahamian poet, essayist, educator and dreamer currently living on the ancestral homeland of the Lenape people. By the luck of friends, collaborators and institutions, their poems and essays have been published and featured in places like the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vice News and the Kenyon Review. They’re interested in engaging creative writing, literature and poetics as a form of political study and practice, and they have led such courses and workshops in NYC elementary schools, New York University and the New School. They’re currently working on a book about Hurricane Dorian, the effects of climate change on Small-Island Developing States, and how centuries of far-flung injustices—like colonization, slavery and numerous inequalities at local and global scales—have come to cause the climate crisis.