This collection of 67 environmentally themed poems can be depressing and uncomfortable to read at times, which is exactly the point publisher Notable Works set out to make with this release. Local authors all contributed work inspired by our current natural world, which is, unfortunately, a disaster (to put it nicely). The poets don’t paint a positive picture of the environment we live in, instead leaving a grim reminder of the impact of our carbon footprint.
Aubrey Atwater’s “On the Changing World” sets the tone for the collection, serving as a call to action for everyone or risk losing the things we often take for granted. It’s a request for a united front to prevent the obvious (to most) dire consequences. The rest of the poems follow Atwater’s lead, focusing on where the world is, where it is inevitably going and the work that needs to be done to cause change.
Because Voices of the Earth was released in 2020, a portion of poems discuss COVID-19. Two mention it in the title, a few allude to the virus and a couple others discuss it in depth. While they were some of the most emotionally difficult to read, they will serve to be an important part of history down the line.
While this collection is full of strong writing, two poems really stuck with me. “Beyond Recycling” by Shalissa Coutoulakis is more of a guide than a poem, but it may be the most important in the book. It discusses the correct way to recycle and (especially relevant) what not to put in the recycling bin. Coutoulakis should send this to every school to start educating the young (and hopefully teaching parents something in the process). The other poem, “Don’t Stop Me When I Say I’ve Had Enough” by M. Neil, tops out at only five lines long, but paints an amazing visual of the incoming doom and change that is about to happen to the narrator. The last two lines of the poem, when read together, may be the best ending to a poem I’ve ever read. It’s striking and powerful; one I make sure to read often.
Voices of the Earth is more than a collection of poetry. It’s also a resource for people who are looking for ways they can help change the world for the better. There is a thoughtful introduction written by Lauren Parmelee, senior director of education at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. Most importantly, there is a list of local resources via environmental agencies. The list of 53 agencies are broken down into four categories: advocacy and education; coalitions; conservation, perseveration and restoration and government agencies. All of the agencies list either their mission statement or give a description of their values and/or ways to help, as well as their contact information.
There is an aura of hope in each poem. The doom and gloom of what currently is serves as an inspiration to change. The poems serve as a blueprint as to what needs to be different and how it could potentially be done. This is a wake-up call to every reader to take a look at what they should be doing differently and why taking care of our Earth is so extremely important. Let Voices of the Earth be the first step.