ICCB 2015 Event: Get Your Marine Verse Ready for the Conservation Poetry Slam


by Anna Milena Zivian

Come sound Whitmanian barbaric yawps in Montpellier! Bring words and, as Edgar Georges wrote,

“Réveiller-vous et brises l’algorithme du monstre qui vous écrase!” (Wake up and smash the algorithm of the monster that is crushing you!)

Current and future scientist-poets and poet-scientists are invited to join a conservation poetry writing session and poetry slam on Wednesday, August 5, at 18:30 at the 27th International Congress for Conservation Biology (held in conjunction with the 4th European Congress for Conservation Biology) in Montpellier, France. The Conservation Poetry Slam is open to all delegates, of all disciplines and backgrounds, at ICCB-ECCB.

In preparation for the event, there will be an informal writing and brainstorming workshop at lunchtime on Monday, August 3. We’ll discuss forms, themes, styles, and topics, and will help each other work through any questions we might have about how to get started. People who want help, input, and feedback, as well as those who just can’t get enough poetry, are welcome to meet at the registration desk at noon. If it’s nice, we’ll head out to the park with baguettes, cheese, and fruit; if it’s rainy, we’ll head to a brasserie or cafe and commune with our inner Rimbauds, Eliots, Hugheses, and Steins.

For me, the kernel of this idea arose when I prepared my speed talk for the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress, held in 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. Four minutes seemed a very short time to discuss the issue of using international agreements for marine conservation in the Arctic; instead of talking extra fast, I decided to deliver my presentation in verse. While that presentation was more doggerel than poetry, it made me think about the different ways we communicate science. Recently, the Guardian newspaper, as part of its “Keep It in the Ground” climate change campaign, published a series of 20 original poems on the theme of climate change.

As Carol Ann Duffy wrote in her introduction to that series, “Information, it seems is not enough. … What’s missing for the reader is often an emotional or aesthetic connection.” Information and emotion do not need to be separate, and poetry can weave the two together in a way that helps people see in new ways. Poetry can make political statements; it can instruct; it can inspire. In hosting this session at ICCB-ECCB, I hope to provide a venue for us to think outside the more traditional academic or political fora, open up new ways of understanding conservation, and encourage participants to see their own research in new, creative ways.

Here are some resources you might find helpful or interesting as you think about writing conservation verse.

Five quick tips for getting started or unstuck: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides/advice/5-ways-how-to-write-a-poem

A full page of resources and links, including a list of forms, an extended discussion of haiku and senryu: http://www.shadowpoetry.com/index.html

Guides to general poetry sites, sites for teachers, online courses, poet pages, and audiovisual archives — very useful for thinking about performing your own poetry: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/resources

Anna Zivian, senior research fellow at the Ocean Conservancy, is organizing a Conservation Poetry Slam at ICCB-ECCB.

Anna Zivian, senior research fellow at the Ocean Conservancy, is organizing a Conservation Poetry Slam at ICCB-ECCB 2015.

-Anna is the Senior Research Fellow at the Ocean Conservancy. You can follow her on Twitter at @azivian. The International Congress for Conservation Biology is the conference of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB). The International Marine Conservation Congress is the biennial conference of the Marine Section of SCB.


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