One of the projects I’ve initiated as part of my Climate Writer Residency with New Writing North and Newcastle University has just launched online. I’m hoping that Murmuration will bring people together in a far-reaching creative collaboration. The poem that arises from it will serve as a collective inventory of what really matters, celebrating our love for the natural world at a time of Climate Crisis and Coronavirus.
The concept is inspired by murmurations, those astonishing displays of aerial acrobatics we see in the air in autumn and winter, when great flocks of starlings gather. Flying together, but never colliding, starlings know there is safety in numbers. In a murmuration the birds are protected from predators and cooling temperatures, while they share news and information and enjoy each other’s company, arcing, folding and singing together.
In the human realm, creative climate action requires both an individual and a collective response and the starlings’ murmuration offers a symbol of what can be achieved through community, collaboration and co-operation.
The first thing people ask when I tell them about my post as Climate Writer is ‘What can I do?’ The words we use, think with and live by, are vitally important for sharing information and telling new stories of creative resilience, developing alternative ways of living together at a time of crisis. We’ve already seen this happening since the restrictions imposed as a consequence of the global pandemic. There are many new demands for our attention online and unanticipated distractions from the continuing crisis around climate and related imbalances.
With this project we might learn from the starlings, raise our wings and our voices in a powerful accumulating murmur, remembering to stay in touch with what we love about this miraculous world where we live. It is a chance to share our observations, feelings, dreams and wishes. Together, we can make something spectacular, far greater than the sum of its parts, an ensemble work of art.
You can contribute to the poem by writing between one and three lines of any length celebrating the natural world, beginning with either the phrase ‘Because I love…’ or ‘What if…’. I will distil and curate all the thoughts and impressions sent in into a single long poem, expressing the collective imagination of all the people who have contributed. Artist Kate Sweeney, who created the wonderful animation on our invitation trailer, will bring the lines to life, making an animated filmpoem, which will reflect our connection with this earth, the natural world and each other at this extraordinary moment in time.
You can read more details and instructions for how to contribute here.
Encouraging comments from Sinéad Morrissey at Newcastle University: “The really exciting thing about this project is that it’s all about the audience – a reaching out to anyone who would like to take part. An ironic consequence of the COVID-19 crisis is that, even in physical isolation, we can now connect with so many people digitally, without the limitations of time or distance. In other words, a whole new kind of conversation can take place. Be part of it. The launch of Murmuration will form part of Inside Writing: a digital poetry festival running through May, June and July, hosted by NCLA and featuring some of today’s most exciting poets responding directly to COVID-19.”
And Anna Disley at New Writing North: “At this stressful and uncertain time, one of the positive things that many people have reported is a new appreciation of the natural world; we are looking more closely at what is on our doorstep, noticing more. This initiative aims to capture that appreciation, to use our collective voice to ensure our natural world is cherished and protected. Added to that, we hope it’s also an impetus not to revert to pre-lockdown climate damaging practices.”
Please think about writing your own ‘Because I love …’ or ‘What if…’ lines and send them in to the New Writing North website or using #writeoutside on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram by 1 August 2020.
Many thanks. I’ll look forward to reading, flocking, flying.