Currently — March 13th, 2023
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In honor of Women’s History Month, Currently is spotlighting the women and femmes who are—and continue to be—the backbone of the environmental and climate justice movement and pioneered the work to protect communities.
Camille Dungy is a poet and professor. She is the author of four poetry collections, including Black Nature, the first known anthology that centers nature writing by Black poets. According to Dungy, Black poets are rarely spotlighted in a genre that’s more associated with leisure, so she selected 180 poems from 93 poets that broadened the genre and better reflected the full spectrum of nature-related poetry. The collection features work from Rita Dove, Sterling Brown, Gwendolyn Brooks, Natasha Trethewey, and Janice Harrington, to name a few.
"The way that the tradition of nature poetry has taken off in America in particular is often about a pastoral landscape, a very idealized rural landscape, or a wilderness landscape in which people are involved," Dungy told NPR. "And Black people have been typically working in the land, and that's not part of the idyllic version of things. And then also the majority of African-Americans have tended to live in urban landscapes, and so there's a very different view, quite often, of the natural world."
Silence is one part of speech, the war cry
of wind down a mountain pass another.
A stranger's voice echoing through lonely
valleys, a lover's voice rising so close
it's your own tongue: these are keys to cipher,
the way the high hawk's key unlocks the throat
of the sky and the coyote's yip knocks
it shut, the way the aspens' bells conform
to the breeze while the rapid's drum defines
ear and pebble our paths. Some notes
gather: the bank we map our lives around.
From Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry Edited by Camille Dungy
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