Found confessions relating to our abuse of the natural world

I have long considered that we are already within an ecological apocalypse— it is not something coming— it’s here.

The unpicking of the natural world’s warp and weft is in relentless process and we, humans, are the primary engineers of this destruction.

I’m not in a position to halt the destruction of species, the laying waste of biomes or the suffocating of oceans.

All I can offer in defence of the natural world is something poetic, something redemptive, to be handed from heart to heart, prompting awe of the natural world and homage towards it.

Such poetic expression would remind us that we were birthed into a garden— upon its tapestry of diversity— and that we have no right to ruin it.

It might erase the distorted self-image we hold of ourselves as being the Earth’s key species.

It might caution us to the fact that we live among other ‘nations’ as part of the whole web of life and that we can’t claim dominion over that web without destroying it.
I recently gave a reading from the newly published NATURALLY AFRICA! AN ANTHOLOGY OF EARTH POEMS. This was at the gracious Casa Labia in Muizenberg. The anthology alerts us to habitats and the myriad creatures alongside which we reside, without which we would die, if not physically, then certainly spiritually.
I began with Thabo Mbeki’s I AM AN AFRICAN and then set in place a Central African landscape, with descriptions of drought, mirage and a longing for rain; fire, rivers [both flooding and dry] with some poems describing nature in urban and suburban landscape. All of them built towards a rich sense of the earth’s magnificence. With this in place, I turned toward humanity’s dark, rapacious relationship with the earth. ‘Found Poems’ from the writings of Captain Cornwallis Harris, Fred Courtney Selous, JA Hunter and JM Coetzee made for searing descriptions to this end. I share one with you.
6 June 1879
Frederick Courteney Selous
I came across two fine old male lions
on the Mababe Plain
lying together under the same bush
and shot them both.
A few months afterwards
Mr HC Collison and myself
shot two lionesses. The one
killed by my friend carried in her womb
three cubs –
two males and a female
that would probably have seen the light
a few hours later.
Poems from: Naturally Africa! An anthology of earth poems
Selected by Dan Wylie & Patricia Schonstein
ISBN 978-1-874915-33-1
African Sun Press
THE POEMS I SELECTED FOR MY READING WERE BY Margaret Clough Marinella Garuti. Mario Garuti Reginald Griffiths Hugh Hodge Daniel Hugo Richard Jordi TE Kinna Uys Krige Moira Lovell Mzi Mahola Jan McArthur Don Pinnock Cornelia Rohde and Elizabeth Trew.


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