What (on Earth) is ecopoetry?

‘Ecopoetry’ is a relatively new term for describing contemporary poetry that has a strong ecological emphasis. Whilst precise definitions vary, ecopoetry is generally recognized by its focus on humanity’s interrelationship with the natural world in such a way that implies responsibility, engagement and a striving for ecological integrity. These are values that are very much at the heart of Resurgence itself.

Of course, ecopoetry is part of the long and more general tradition of nature poetry, much of which has displayed a deep ecological sensitivity, and even an explicit concern for environmental issues, in the past.

Perhaps what distinguishes contemporary ecopoetry is the specific circumstances of wide scale ecological degradation  out of which it has arisen, and its recognition of the interconnectedness of ecological health with social harmony and spiritual wellbeing: what Satish Kumar refers to as the trinity of “Soil, Soul and Society”. Of course no one ecopoem will cover every aspect of this totality but each will in some way resonate with such a worldview.

Why an award for ecopoetry?

The 21st Century promises to be an age of environmental and ecological challenge and even crisis. Whilst such a backdrop provides fertile soil for writers of all kinds, of all the arts poetry has probably suffered the most in terms of decline in public engagement and understanding of its relevance to the issues facing the world. The Resurgence Poetry Prize aims to redress this by fostering the role poetry can play in providing insight, raising awareness and provoking concern for the ecological imperatives of our time.

Ecopoetry is gathering pace, and several anthologies and books have been published that use the word expressly or as a guiding principle.

“The poetic tradition was a spoken one, long before it became a written one,” explains Sir Andrew. “The full impact of a poem can only be conveyed by its sound, and is most potent when a poem is spoken in the author’s own voice. Unlike any other literary competition, a poem’s suitability for being recited will form part of the judging process of this Prize.”