Bernard has some big ideas
"THE WORLD'S BECOME completely unpredictable on a large scale," says writer Bernard Welt.
He says that pollutants and man-made alterations have rendered our rock-steady notions of Earth as stable algorithm totally obsolete, and while he would love for this to be manifested as "a rain of frogs," we'll just have to settle for ice caps melting, winters becoming intemperately warm and other subtle indications of irreconcilable climate change.
He says all of these things when summarizing the message of a seminal piece of environmental literature: Bill McKibben's 1989 book "The End of Nature," which helped plant the idea of global warming into the lives of everyday Americans.
Welt, along with fellow writers Judith McCombs and Nan Fry, will be tackling McKibben's ideas in a poetry reading on April 19 at the Warehouse Gallery, in conjunction with the art exhibition "The End of Nature."
"[Poetry] brings a kind of focused attention to the world that I think we don't have time for" in our modern world, Fry says.
That includes looking at the natural world that we live in every day, be it going out and drinking in the Appalachians or noticing the scrappy tree in McPherson Square that we usually overlook en route to the Metro.
Our idea of nature has completely changed in the last50 years, McCombs says, and "instead of Nature — the monster that you find in so much Anglo-Canadian literature — you have 'Nature,' the terribly, terribly endangered."
Each poet will be reading his or her poems about nature, or man's place in it. Fry will be reading her poems about particular aspects of nature that she enjoys, such as individual plants or animals. McCombs will be reading from her recent book of nature poetry, "The Habit of Fire." Welt plans to read a longer piece analyzing our stance toward the natural world.
But expecting to inspire social change through poetry offers it own challenges.
"When you think climate change or Free Tibet, you don't always think, 'Hey, I know what we can do — let's have a poetry reading!'" says Welt. It's hard for poetry to stay relevant, he says, in an age of "tabloidism and e-mail" — but he also thinks that our attitude toward spontaneous e-mail writing and reading could actually translate into a healthy appetite for poetry.
"If [poetry] ends up an academic hobby — the last thing you want as a poet is to be like the guy at the Renaissance Fair who goes around playing the lute," he says. "That's no fun, for a poet. So you do want to do something that has a real impact on real people, bringing up real issues."
"I want people to take nature seriously, and to think about it," adds McCombs.
» Warehouse, 1021 7th St. NW; through May 4, free; 202-783-3933. (Mt. Vernon Square)
Written by Express' Chris Combs