Valley News – Poets’ pen lines to support the earth

HANOVER – Poets and environmentalists work together to raise awareness among people about the protection of open lands and the nature around them.

As part of this effort, land trusts have teamed up with poets to publish an anthology that celebrates the parcels of land conserved. The Upper Valley Land Trust worked with three poets who will share their work in a virtual reading Wednesday on Zoom.

Lis McLoughlin, a poet who heads the nonprofit NatureCulture, led the project and edited the anthology, Write the earth: northeast.

“The whole Writing the Land project came to me because I’m a poet, and I was very frustrated with the lack of opportunity (for) poetry to do a real job,” she said. “Usually you preach to the choir as a nature poet. People find it, and they’re like ‘Oh, that’s good’. ”

“I wanted to find a way to get poetry to support land trusts. ”

McLoughlin lives in an off-grid cottage in a mature forest in Northfield, Mass, and she enjoys the wilderness around her home.

But she knows that the owners of farms and forests are aging, and she fears that development will swallow up open land. Through the anthology, poets can promote the work of land trusts and do their part for conservation “at a time when the land needs all the help it can get to survive,” as she said in her introduction. .

The idea quickly caught on. In its first year, the Writing the Land project brought together 11 land trusts and 40 poets. Each poet “adopted” a piece of land and wrote a series of poems based on it. Next year, the project will publish four anthologies to accommodate 150 poets and more than 50 land trusts.

Alison Marchione, program director for the Upper Valley Land Trust, said people are often surprised when they find out that a piece of land just minutes from where they live is conserved and open to the public. She hopes the anthology will raise awareness of the publicly available lands that the Land Trust manages.

This year, the project paired the UVLT with three poets. Jessica Purdy, from Exeter, NH, traveled to Hanover to write about 38 acres of wetlands in the headwaters of the Mascoma River, ominously known as the Dismal on Pressey Brook.

Christopher Locke, from Essex, NY, pondered a strained personal relationship in his dramatic throat poems from Trues Ledges in Lebanon. Hope Jordan, of Canterbury, NH, remembered her childhood writing about 1,100 acres of open fields and forests in Charlestown.

This year’s anthology has a great “diversity of voices,” McLoughlin said, with poets pondering everything from the smallest individual leaf to the long, winding story of a river.

When Purdy visited the Dismal, two details caught his attention: the way tree roots twisted around rocks lodged below them, and a fallen tree sprawled out over a waterfall.

“(The tree) almost ruined the pristine quality of this waterfall. But at the same time, that was the beauty of it, ”she said. “In some ways, nature is not perfect and imperfection is often what catches the eye. ”

Locke traveled east from his home in the Adirondacks in November when the trees had already shed the leaves that are so popular on postcards. He found something majestic in the scene, enjoying “a feeling of courage and perseverance… with this particular land”.

He captured this solidity in verse, writing:

“The wind weakens, jostles, / the building while I occupy / the shore with rapid steps / the stones spit underfoot.

“Not many people really know how to hear the voices of nature when they are in the wild,” McLoughlin said. “Or they hear it and don’t understand it. Poets understand well and have a unique role to play in portraying the relationship between humans and the rest of nature… They touch the hearts and minds of people.

To register for the poetry reading, which will take place Wednesday, November 3 at noon, visit

Claire Potter is a member of the Report for America Corps. She can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3242.

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