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Why I Wrote "Archipelagos"

Lockdown Poems

By Geoffrey Philp Published 9 months ago Updated 9 months ago 3 min read

As a writer, poet, and climate justice advocate, my deep concerns for the environment, and the devastating impacts of climate change compelled me during the lockdown to write a series of poems, which resulted in the creation of Archipelagos. Inspired by “Derek Walcott’s poem, “Archipelagos,” which is part of a longer poem, “Map of the New World,” and Amitav Ghosh's The Nutmeg's Curse, where he connects climate change with colonialism, I drew on work of other writers such as Aimé Césaire, Adam Hochschild, and Diana McCaulay—to whom the book is livicated-- to offer my perspective on climate change and colonialism, environmental concerns, and Garveyite principles centered around justice, particularly climate justice.

Amitav Ghosh’s “The Nutmeg’s Curse” examines the historical roots of climate change and its ties to colonialism. Ghosh's work inspired me to delve into these themes in “Archipelagos,” emphasizing the interconnectedness between the legacy of colonialism and the urgent need for climate justice, especially in the Caribbean. In particular, I was drawn to a passage in The Nutmeg's Curse; "The planet will never come alive for you unless your songs and stories give life to all the beings seen and unseen, which inhabit a living earth." This also reminded me of Joseph Campbell's words in the television series, The Power of Myth, "We are the consciousness of the earth. We are the eyes of the earth. The voice of the earth.” Building upon Ghosh's insights, my poetry aims to shed light on this relationship and advocate for meaningful action.

Driven by my commitment to environmental conservation and climate change activism, I channeled my concerns and emotions into “Archipelagos.” Each poem explores various dimensions of our changing climate, the loss of biodiversity, and the impact on vulnerable communities. For example, poems such as “Creole Warrior,” "A Terrible Beauty," and “After the Hurricane" highlight the devastating effects of climate change not only on the most vulnerable communities around the world but also in my backyard here in Florida. Through these poems, I have tried to raise awareness, inspire empathy, and engage readers in the urgent call for sustainable action. It was challenging to maintain a balance between the seriousness of the crisis--as Bob Marley said over 40 years ago, “The Earth vex”-- and my concerns about the sonic quality of the poems-- influenced by Derek Walcott's question, which Mervyn Taylor, memorialized in his book, The Country of Warm Snow, “‘Dónde está la música, señor?’”

As a Garveyite, my beliefs align with Marcus Garvey's teachings on self-determination and justice for marginalized communities. Climate justice perfectly complements these principles, recognizing that those least responsible for climate change often bear its harshest consequences. In “Songs of the Archipelagos," I looked to amplify the voices of the displaced and silenced, depicting the injustices caused by climate change in the archipelagos of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. And in the sestina, “Anthem for the Woke,” I play with the implications of “wokeness” in the face of planetary destruction or, as my friend Dennis Martin, who appears in the poem, “Philosophy 101,” would say, “Yu tek bad tings mek joke, bredrin.” The collection's closing poem, "The Admiral," extends that playfulness even as it examines the themes of historical legacy and the reckoning with the past. As Burning Spear’s “damned blasted liar” watches news of the toppling of statues and the dismantling of colonial symbols, he wonders about the consequences of his actions. He sees discussions among Jamaicans (“Africans,” as he calls them) about dismantling his statue and feels unease and impending doom. The poem raises questions about accountability, the lasting impact of historical figures, and the potential for collective liberation and emancipation.

“Archipelagos” represents the continuation of my concerns for the environment, climate change, and justice. By merging environmental themes, personal convictions, and the spirit of Garveyism, I aimed to engage readers in the pursuit of climate justice. I hope that Archipelagos will stand as a testament to our connection to the environment and each other and the quest for a more equitable future.

"Archipelagos," published by my favorite independent publisher, Peepal Tree Press, is available on their website (https://www.peepaltreepress.com/books/archipelagos) and my favorite independent book store, Books&Books (https://shop.booksandbooks.com/book/9781845235505)

nature poetry

About the Creator

Geoffrey Philp

I am a Jamaican writer. I write poems (haiku & haibun), stories & essays about climate change, Marcus Garvey, music icons such as Bob Marley, and the craft of writing through personal reflection & societal engagement.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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