Maria Marchidanu organised the Green Poetry for Change event. She was interviewed by John Cavanagh, who also presented work at the event, for August’s edition of Playback, a monthly audio magazine designed for blind and partially sighted people.
Green Poetry for Change shaped a diverse and multicultural afternoon of storytelling sheltered by the colours, light, and shade of Glasgow’s Hidden Gardens. The event brought together participants from many corners of the world, all sharing two passions that cross any human made geographical borders: a love of nature and of poetry. The environment around us welcomed our collective voice and responded repeatedly with a cool summer breeze, the rustling of wise trees, and birdsong. On this afternoon, we put all distractions to one side and reflected on the rhythms and motifs uncovered in poetry and stories on the theme of nature that moved from Scotland, to Romania, Poland, and France, to tree imagery in the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien, to folklore and ballads.
The event began with a wonderful collage of poems by one of Glasgow’s most inspiring writers, Jim Ferguson. Jim explored the rapport between urban settings and themes, and the natural landscape that contoured both inner and social reflections. Jim was followed by Luciana Blaha who shared a celebrated poem of the sea by Adrian Păunescu in both Romanian and her own English translation. Mariana Rios Maldonado shaped a magical dialogue that moved between her dedication to stories and why they have always been told, and J. R. R. Tolkien’s theoretical and fictional works on the voice of nature. The first part ended with Maria Marchidanu sharing another reading on the rapport between the life of the sea and the human being who can become part of it once again.
The second part of the afternoon began with the sounds of Ryan English’s acoustic guitar and the enchanting voice of Roslyn Potter who took us on a journey from old Scottish ballads to Gaelic songs of the sea. At times, passing seagulls seemed eager to be part of Roslyn’s choir. John Cavanaugh, music producer and radio presenter, shared his own work in three vignettes that illustrated the wonder of some of the smallest beings we share our environment with, followed by the poetry of Norman MacCaig and Robert Burns. Culture animator, community development worker and aspiring polyglot Marzanna Antoniak shared with us a poem by the Polish Nobel Prize laureate Zbigniew Herbert, followed by Julian Tuwim’s ‘Bird Radio’. The Polish rhythms enchanted everyone, while John Cavanaugh’s performance of the English translation brought us into the awe of birds’ dialogue in a radio that echoed the communion with nature throughout. Paul Malgrati carried us into a landscape of French and Scots, in a myriad of evocative imagery that reminded us that nature is at the heart of every answer to our past and present socio-political and economic issues.
The afternoon ended with a collective reflection on the role arts and humanities can play in both raising awareness and imagining solutions to the climate emergency. Regardless of our specific projects and lifestyle, we share a responsibility to ask questions, to shape them in a way that allows each of us to formulate possibilities of healing in a manner that shifts the place of nature from an instrument in human-centred designs, to the recollection of the fundamental voice that echoes through us and beyond forever.
Maria Marchidanu is a third-year Scottish Literature PhD researcher at the University of Glasgow. In 2018, Maria was editor and project coordinator of the literary anthology You Don’t Look British (Lumphanan Press). Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org