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Soul Of The Earth: A Poetry Workshop

By Kate Plant & Shalini Priyadarshini, WEN Green Reads Leads

Does writing a poem evoke inspiration or fear in you? Or perhaps you don’t understand why people write poems in the first place? On May 20th, 2021, Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) hosted an event titled “The Soul of the Earth is With Us: a Nature Poetry Workshop” taught by Bay Area poet Ellery Akers. The aim was to provide a writing platform for participants to connect with nature and use poetry as a means to replenish the soul of the activist!

Akers writes both poetry and essays and has produced several books. Her work has been featured in many national journals and papers such as The American Poetry Review, and the New York Times Magazine and has won numerous awards for her writing. Being an environmentalist is so overwhelming at times, it is good to remember the victories. Writing is easy when you write about what belongs to you – and nature belongs to all of us. Akers reminded us that writing is a way to feel alive.

The 90 minute workshop began with a brief discussion about poetry being best when you start with free writing — where you do not worry about spelling, mistakes, or grammar — you just write. Akers encouraged us to  “just hurtle along, not worrying about making sense, spilling our minds onto paper”, because writing this way disarms the critical mind.

Then we embarked on several poetry writing exercises, where we were given two minutes to write FAST without stopping, about each topic below: 

  • A past memory from a joy in nature, repeated phrases (e.g. whatever happened to…), 
  • Including strong verbs (e.g. blaze, drowse, breathe, stroke), 
  • A persona poem (e.g writing in the voice of someone else —-a person, an animal, a plant or an object), 
  • A final poem utilizing everything we learnt.

Interwoven into the  exercises and discussions, Akers shared some of her own wonderful poems from her books including the latest, Swerve. By the end of the event, some of us were brave enough to share our poems: 

The Energy Of Change.

I call to the land, sea, sky and beings who live on this blue-belt planet

I ask for love, for forgiveness, for mirth, for a way forward 

I know I’m in the trenches working to bring the community together and enticing their other green options

Yet, I’m LOST! I’m LOST! No We’re LOST!

I rely on the energy of our world to help guide me and our beings to change.

I remember life and I remember, the pain of life begging to be forgiven.

Change is swirling around, breathing, breathing.

 – Kate Plant

The trees are my allies. 

When I ask them how they are, they hug me and tell me I need to take better care of them.

I hug them back and sway with them.

I know they are as calm as me, in the moment, looking down at me, as their steward.

But am I their steward?

I call on my people to join my conversation with the trees.

I call the Fox.

I know his spirit is looking down on the earth…

telling me and all of us to unlock our fears like he did…

…get all humankind to defend the rivers, the streams, the oceans, the groundwater, the forests, the mountains, the deserts, the prairie.

Never afraid of getting caught…

He knew everyone wanted him to do the things he did to protect the Fox River Valley.

He was their upstander. Yet no one knew who he was. 

He tells us they will not catch any of us. 

-Shalini Priyadarshini

As participants of this wonderful event, Akers helped us channel our inner poets and recognized that this  was an opportunity for both the writer and the reader to heal. One of the hardest things for anyone to do, is to sit down and begin writing. So, as Akers encouraged us, “Freewrite and write FAST my friends!” 

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