It’s a rare and wonderful thing for a group of writers, amateur and professional, to come together and give of their best work completely free, to do their bit to save the planet. This is what Pens of the Earth is all about, and in this, their fourth year of publication, they don’t disappoint. Local writer Jane Andreoli reports.
Every year, local writers are given one or more themes to consider. This year, there were two. ‘Under the Surface’ sought to draw attention to the sea bed, and its need to be cleaned and properly conserved for the good of all sea creatures, and for the health of the ozone layer. This was interpreted in many diverse ways. Rio Bivens’ story took us deep under the water to explore the world of a whale. Christine Lawrence held an imaginary conversation with a seahorse and drew us with her to experience the deadly beauty of drifting plastics. Helen Salsbury’s damaged heroine found hope and healing when reconnecting with the beauty of this flawed and damaged planet. We meet Beige Barry: a social misfit whose life is changed by seagrass. Our homes are invaded by the Secret Service Seal, on a mission against microfibres. Seals befriend us, still surviving and forgiving despite the pollution in their watery world. An otter kit is rescued in a thrilling true story by Judith Thompson. We are taken beachcombing by Granny, and for a walk through strange crossing places where sea and land intersect. A different viewpoint entirely comes from the musings of a grey cloud, high above everything, yet still part of the vital interconnectedness of nature.
The other theme was the land-based ‘Making Places for People’. In a society where the car is king, and more and more of our countryside is eaten away by developers, the needs of the pedestrian are often lost and forgotten. These stories and poems tell of simple projects that put a green soul back into urban sprawl and clean the air while uplifting our spirits. Sue Spiers’ wonderful poem gives an enchanting portrait of primary school children planting flowers in public places. Tina MacNaughton, through poetry and prose, reminds us of the power of place, and the deep emotional pull of home. We need to walk slowly and drink it all in. Julian Bishop conjures up a magical description of the microscopic and macroscopic life of a pine forest, and its role in cooling the overheated planet. Christina Moran talks about the unexpected joy – yes, joy! – of litter picking. There are poems and stories about the magical effect of introducing garden plants to city streets.
The most exciting thing about this year’s themes is that solutions are already happening. Take a look on the website to find out about Pompey Parklets, twenty-minute neighbourhoods, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s Solent Seagrass Restoration Project, pocket parks, inner city apple trees and many more inspired projects. These are not only helping the planet, but also helping our mental health and wellbeing. It is interesting to realise that the two are inextricably linked. The greater the care we take of the natural world, the more we benefit by becoming happier, healthier, calmer and more sociable.
All the stories and poems are available to read on the Pens of the Earth website. Very importantly, there is also information on the projects that are happening right now to improve the sea bed, and to reclaim our inner cities as spaces where humans can connect with nature and thrive.
Every day on the news, we hear about the environmental battle. We don’t hear about the thousands of grass-roots actions that are already making a difference. The message of Pens of the Earth has always been don’t give up hope. Imagine a better world. Write about it. Words can make a difference.
So, what does the future hold for Pens of the Earth? There is a remarkable wealth of writing talent and environmental information on the website. The founders hope to reach a wider audience in the future, possibly by publishing an anthology.
In the meantime, make yourself a hot drink, settle down and: Check out our stories and poems here.
Check out our Life Under the Surface environmental information and writing prompts here.
Check out our Making Places for People environmental information and writing prompts here.
Check out our inspirational content for the previous year here.
Help with local Seagrass Restoration projects by sponsoring a Seagrass Seed Pod here.
Contribute towards our Wilder Portsmouth fundraiser here.
‘Eastney’ photo used with permission from artist Rachel Birchley