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The impact of poetry

Poetic techniques for creating change



For most of us, the last male white rhinoceros died some place distant. Nandi Chinna brings that death home and close to us by slipping the animal’s presence, its “sad, accusing eye”, into our immediate world—in the shower, beside the salad, keeping up around street corners, hovering restlessly with its “hooves clicking / on the polished boards” and,


         “as we curl
          into the mattress, spooning the quiver
          of each other’s sentience.”


(from ‘The last male white rhinoceros’, published in Rabbit 34).


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Jemma Borg refers to this technique as:


not new but always radical”,  a  “hollowing out of purely the ego’s view”.


Jemma describes “an opening of the boundaries of the self” as at once “a remembering of our true animal nature, our affinity with a world that is complex, and mysterious because of its complexity, and also unpredictable and capable of teaching us concepts such as restraint and humility, concepts which would have been more self-evidently important if we lived closer to the land. Close attention is what it says it is—it’s stopping, slowing, giving in to deep time and ‘being with’.  The British poet Ted Hughes said, ‘Heightened awareness draws language to itself’. This suggests that the work of the poet is more—or at least, first—not in language but in attention. Attention attracts patterns of language that we think of as having the qualities of ‘poetry’—musical, rhythmical—and language that comes from a deeper place in our psyches that is rooted in our true identities as human animals.”


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I love the room sometimes left inside a poem, a felt space I might find my way to, and from which I might see not the poem but that upon which the poem is merely the catching of the light.



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I (Kristen) have a favourite quote from JM Ledgard’s Giraffe which seems to be relevant here:


I wish to teeter on a shore, over seaweed, and be overcome with a different kind of vertigo, that is not restricted flow through my vertebral artery, but a vertiginous sense of possibility.”


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From SB:



Grounded here in anti-consumption

(the bonus of early retirement), I tell myself

to “eschew futurism and techno-fixes”.


What works?

meditation practices

non-compliance &

rhizomatic learning.


This Self-care is an act of defiance.

Through tentacular interventions, healing comes

to fill space between words and actions.


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An excerpt from Alicia Ostriker’s The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog:



Some claim the origin of song

was a war cry

some say it was a rhyme

telling the farmers when to plant and reap

don’t they know the first song was a lullaby

pulled from a mother’s sleep

said the old woman


A significant

factor generating my delight in being

alive this springtime

is the birdsong

that like a sweeping mesh has captured me

like diamond rain I can’t

hear it enough said the tulip


lifetime after lifetime

we surged up the hill

I and my dear brothers

thirsty for blood


our beautiful songs

said the dog


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From Kerryn Coombes-Valeontis: Joy Harjo, in her poem  “A map to the next world” (, speaks to those “who would climb through a hole in the sky.” She writes from a position of beyond the challenging ecological and climate changing times that we are facing.  She commandeers her imagination and manoeuvers the imaginal wisdom of hindsight. As does Jane Hirshfield, in her 2014 poem “Let them not say”, which rebukes humanity with a great tenderness of grief, which is generous in understanding. Both poems mean to hijack our reflective capacity, and leave us bereft, disconcerted, activating hope to provoke collective awakening.


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To share a technique for change-making in poetry, one you value or have been moved by, send an email to


Read the latest issue

The Transformative Now

VOL.10 N.01

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.