No other place to stand – Creativity and Climate Change: WORD Christchurch 2022

On Saturday afternoon climate change activist Kera Sherwood-O’Regan joined Erik Kennedy, essa may ranapiri and Rebecca Hawkes (the editors of the poetry anthology No Other Place to Stand) to discuss the anthology, art, and climate change, at one of the events for the WORD Christchurch Festival

No Other Place to Stand

The anthology compiles poetry from an impressive ninety-one Kiwi writers that address the enormous issue of climate change, what it means to them, and how they or their world has been affected. The poems showcase their emotions and vulnerabilities, and everything in between. The poems address the relationship between words and worlds. The link between action and poetry. People and their ‘here’. Showing that it is not just the science of climate change that is important, or the effects of it broadcast to us from around the world, but our experiences and how we process it, too. Poetry is one creative form to help do this. This book seems somehow more significant than your typical poetry anthology, and more than a call to action. It is definitely not a light read. It is real, raw and confronting. But it feels important.

Erik Kennedy began the event by stating how proud he was of the work that went into the anthology, acknowledging the terror and grief the poets had to go through, and, sometimes, even hope. He believes it is a uniquely important anthology as it shares the voices of young and indigenous people, in a clear-eyed and incisive way.

“Poetry allows us to mourn, cry, trace whakapapa, and reminds us of who we are, in the deepest and most expansive of ways.”

Four poets performed readings of poems they had contributed to the anthology, including Faumuina Felolini Maria Tafuna’i, Michelle Rahurahu, Kirsty Dunn, and Philip Armstrong. These performances were powerful. Mesmerising. Real. Authentic. Raw. Harrowing. They resonated with the audience in ways that reading poems alone cannot always do.

A discussion then ensued. Kera explained that as climate change activists, they don’t always think about the importance of the creative process, the power of poetry and prose, and how it connects us. This anthology shows just how important that is! It establishes a connection through poetry.

There was a discussion about the difference between factual reporting and evidence of climate change being broadcasted to us from around the world, and creativity and poetry. Kera said:

“Poems connect on a visceral level”.

Stories can be used in ways that determine the actions we take, or how we frame something. The science of climate change may be real, but it can make it seem inaccessible. Poetry, on the other hand, makes climate change action more accessible. It brings people together. In this way, poetry can make a difference. It breaks down barriers, especially for people in indigenous and other vulnerable communities.

The editors also talked about the importance of providing safe spaces for the poets to share their work, and providing support and acknowledgement as they worked through their trauma and experiences, and making it known that their stories matter. Kera explained that as activists they get told that their voices don’t matter in many ways, so this piece of work is so important in that respect, showing these poets that they’re voices do matter.

The discussion ended with addressing the question of ‘where to from here?’ It was agreed that providing safe spaces for artists, poets, and creative people to share their work is critical. Thinking about safety, how their work might be received, creating safe spaces and providing support, while also looking at financial and material stability, community responsibility, and continuing to have conversations with these communities.

The event concluded with members of the audience getting the chance to ask questions, and of course a book signing opportunity. Another incredible WORD Christchurch Festival event.

WORD Christchurch Festival 2022 Coverage

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