Last year, as I watched walruses falling to their deaths on Our Planet, my breath caught in my throat. When I was finally able to release it, it came out as an almighty sob. I started to shake. It was one of the most harrowing things I’d ever witnessed.
Sadness overwhelmed me. Then fury. I wanted to, needed to write about it, but words were out of reach. I told myself, ‘As soon as you are able to, you will write about this.’
Then I saw the infamous video of the dying polar bear, scavenging for food from a rusted oil drum, and I went to pieces. (Over the past decade, I’ve come to see the polar bear as my spirit animal.) The sight of this formally mighty and imposing bear struggling to move his broken body, was something I could not abandon. I told myself again, that I would write about it as soon as I could.
I looked online to see if anyone had written about the dying polar bear or the falling walruses and found just one poem. It was about the walruses. I read the first few lines but the rest was hidden from view because I hadn’t paid to subscribe to the site it was published on.
It was the other day that I felt capable of putting words down for the Arctic and its inhabitants, and as I was doing so, I thought I’d like to do my part in helping to bring more Arctic poems from other voices into existence. Yes, many, many, many people are writing poetry about climate change, but there needs to be more voices. So I decided to put together some prompts to hopefully encourage you to write your own.
*If you don’t enjoy writing poetry, use any form of creative writing you feel comfortable with.
Writing For The Arctic – Poetry Prompts
- Watch the video of the falling walruses and write something in response to it. You could write it from the perspective of the walrus or an onlooker. It’s up to you.
- Watch the dying polar bear video and write about it. Again, it’s entirely up to you from what perspective you write it from. In my case, I’m working on a poem from the perspective of someone watching the polar bear and another one from the perspective of the bear themselves.
- Write about an Inuit who used to know the land intimately, but is becoming less capable of recognizing it. Find inspiration through this quote ‘Sea, ice, snow…it’s all changing.’ from Inuit trapper Derrick Pottle. You can read the full Guardian article in which the quote appears here.
- Remember when there were catastrophic fires raging within the Arctic circle? There’s a informative article about the wildfires here. Write about the burning of the boreal forests. You could write from the perspective of an animal caught in a blaze or even perhaps the perspective of a tree. Maybe you could write about what it was like to hear, for the first time, the news of what was happening and how you reacted to it.
- Higher temperatures have seen grizzly bears extending their ranges, heading further north and coming into more frequent contact with polar bears. Write about an encounter between a grizzly and a polar bear. Or, you could write about how grizzlies mating with polar bears results in a reduce in the level of polar genes.
- Write about a hunting trip in the High Arctic which goes terribly wrong because the sea ice the Inuit are used to traveling on is thinner and more fragile than it’s ever been before.
- ‘There is no facet of Arctic life that remains untouched by the immensity of change here, except perhaps the eternal dance between light and darkness. The Arctic as we know it – a vast icy landscape where reindeer roam, polar bears feast, and waters teem with cod and seals – will soon be frozen only in memory.’ – Gloria Dickie. Write a poem influenced by this statement. You can read the full article in which it appears here.
- Imagine there is one polar bear left in the Arctic. Write about that bear.
*If you do write something please share it with the hashtag #writeforthearctic and perhaps we could do something with all the pieces.
What I Was Listening To While Writing This Post
Elegy for the Arctic – Ludovico Einaudi