Saturday, April 30, 2022

npm 30: imperfect all over again



What, you may ask, does an anthology of not-particularly-climate-related "poems of perspective" for middle-schoolers have to do with Truth, Courage and Connection and solving the climate crisis?

It's a great question, and yet, as climate communicators like Katharine Hayhoe, Emily N. Johnston and--well, I--have realized, every aspect of our lives and every identity we claim (and even those we're unaware of) is directly touched by the fact that we are hurtling by the day towards some truly unknowable consequences of our quotidian destruction of the planet.  Everything really is connected by those interwoven lines of the interdependent web of all existence. 

So, as we try to pick a path forward in our anxiety and grief, any little dose of perspective goes a long way. And way better to begin younger to grasp all that "keeping perspective" can do for us.  Big thanks to Tabatha Yeatts, her  team, and all the poets for bringing IMPERFECT II to us, which closes my April project--but not the brilliant ALL WE CAN SAVE that I still haven't finished reading, never mind processing--here today.

As Tabatha writes in the Introduction, "All of us have to do something similar [show a realistic perspective] in our daily lives.  Things may happen that we view out of proportion--we see them as being bigger, smaller, more permanent that they really are."  The trouble, when it comes to climate disaster, is that if you accept the science,*  it's hard to pin down what a "realistic" perspective might mean, and our climate chaos future really is looking bigger and more permanent than many of us can imagine.  What can we, parents and grandparents of the kids IMPERFECT II is made for, take from this slim but "high-nutrition" volume?

The Perfect Book for Now

Is it stubborn to insist


comes along at the perfect time?

Or is it always/ every day/

each moment/ this week/

tomorrow/ oops just now/

the perfect time 

to practice/remember/ 

realize/ learn that 

there is no such thing

as perfect?

If these pants fit me "perfectly,"

that won’t be true for you.

If my project lacked perfection/

even completion, does it

mean I failed? Why, no.

And if my poem strikes you as

perfect, it won’t be so for everyone–

only for the you who came to it

precisely when and how you 

needed it.

draft ©HM 2022


Here's some of what I read in ALL WE CAN SAVE this week and the perspective I needed--and found--in IMPERFECT II.
Ash Sanders:  "How do we confront the reality of climate change and convince others to do the same? The environmentalist Alan AtKisson calls this predicament Cassandra’s Dilemma...AtKisson connects the myth to climate action: the more a person knows about environmental destruction, the more they will try to warn others, and the more others will, in fear and defensiveness, resist them."  --Under the Weather, ALL WE CAN SAVE

 Robert Schechter:
"If you really knew me,
If you could see right through me,
If you could glimpse the true me,
If you could rightly view me,
I wonder if you'd like me more, or less?"
"Your Guess" (excerpt), IMPERFECT II

Amy Westerfeldt:  "Exxon CEO Lee Raymond said in a 1996 speech..."It's a long and dangerous leap to conclude that we should cut fossil fuel use...there's simply no reason to take drastic action now."  The m***erf***er. These speeches and memos infuriate me." --"Mothering in an Age of Extinction," ALL WE CAN SAVE
Lisa Varchol Perron:
Some words, like stones, are heavy--
they knock me to my knees.
While other float like feathers
and scatter in the breeze....
But I can start refusing 
to carry stony things.
I'll gather all my feathers
and stitch them into WINGS.
"Stones and Feathers" (excerpt), IMPERFECT II
 Ash Sanders: "Ultimately, [Chris] settled on one word to describe both others and himself. He called it ignore-ance, or “returning from a state of consciousness to a willed state of not knowing.” That’s where he was now, he said, and where so many people insist on being. He was surviving, but he didn’t admire himself. “You do it by pretending,” he said, as if teaching me how. “You pretend that this life is OK, that college football is fun, that driving is normal. You pretend, to justify living a lie.”--Under the Weather, ALL WE CAN SAVE

Linda Mitchell:
I pledge allegiance to my hoody,
and the safety it
a life jacket in
and cover for me...
"My Hoody" (excerpt, IMPERFECT II)
Emily N. Johnston: "We can feel fear and grief and anger, in other words — we can even feel avoidant sometimes — and still attend to the world’s very real and immediate needs, as long as we don’t let our feelings be an excuse for abandoning our responsibilities. And in truth, serving the world’s needs is the only thing that I have seen consistently lighten that fear and grief and anger in others, and the only thing that has done so consistently in my own life." --Loving a Vanishing World, ALL WE CAN SAVE

Mary Lee Hahn: 

"My eyes are not the best in the animal kingdom, 
but I can see both sides of an argument, 
giving me the power of perspective,

I can see into your pain,
giving me the power of empathy,
and I can see what might be,
giving me the power of imagination.

"Point of View" (excerpt), IMPERFECT II

Emily N. Johnston:  "Everybody has different skills, and different temperaments...We can best use our own abilities within the landscape of our feelings, in other words, by valuing those of others. We have one volunteer who spends a day every week doing our books, another who does all the tricky work on our database, another who writes all our thank-you notes for us. We even have a retired massage therapist who offers us free massages. All of the work is critical in this moment, and we must do it with humility; learning as we go; taking on both the deeply satisfying and the unpleasant or routine tasks. We don’t have to believe they’re adequate — we only have to understand that not doing them would mean we’d decided not to care for this world..."-- Loving a Vanishing World, ALL WE CAN SAVE

Here I can turn to one of my own poems, even!

The Bigger Picture


i am one particle among

millions and

billions and

trillions of us

each of us our own particular

grains and

shapes and


crystals and

infinitely numerous

colors and

formed through unimaginable

eons and

from uncountable

eruptions and

erosions and

somehow we are all called



Again, thanks to Tabatha Yeatts for including my work along with all the many talented poets included in this anthology. Order your copy here!  

*Pet Peeve: it's not a question of "belief," which does not depend on data; it's a question of accepting the science, which IS the data.  We should stop talking about whether people "believe" in climate warming. Do they accept the scientific data or not?--that's the question.


My project for NPM 2022:
This month I'm making "human stories to move human beings.  Human stories are more powerful for inciting action than counting carbon or detailing melting glaciers." (Favianna Rodriguez, from her essay "Harnessing Cultural Power," in ALL WE CAN SAVE.)
2 Gratitude for those who take the time to fix things
5 A comparison of beaver wisdom with human attempts to control water & fire

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