Writing about Weather Catastropes

Within the last few months, I’ve written work based on weather-related catastrophes for different publishers. I wrote a poem entitled “Evacuation” for a flood-themed issue of Word Fountain, a literary journal published through the Osterhout Library in Wilkes-Barre. The editors acquired grant money to make the issue glossy and larger than past issues. All of the money will go to flood victims of Luzerene County, many of whom lost their homes in areas without the levee system during Hurricance Irene in 2011. More recently, I was notified about a project Unbound Content is doing to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy. The editor of the press (which is also publishing my first full-length book of poems late this year) is seeking creative work about the Jersey Shore.  The money from sales will be donated to hurricane victims.

These two projects led me to write more poems  about weather-related calamities caused by global warming and the massive harm we’ve been doing to the environment. I would eventually like to put together a series of poems weather-related, including poems from the point of view of the victims, maybe even politicians. As far as I know, there haven’t been many collections like this, other than Patricia Smith’s book Blood Dazzler, all about hurricane Katrina.

I foresee this being a long, slow process, especially since I’ll have to do readings for my new book later in the year, and I’m starting Ph.D. coursework, but perhaps as part of my creative dissertation, I can take on this project and really do research, looking at photos and articles about these events to generate ideas for other poems.

If you’re in the area, you should come to the Word Fountain premiere taking place this Saturday from 2-4 p.m at the Osterhout Library.  Contributors to the flood-themed issue will read their work, and copies of the journal will be on sale.

Now Can We Discuss Climate Change?

I hope everyone is safe and dry after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast. I’m still astounded at the damage it did, especially to New York City and the Jersey Shore. The pictures of the gutted boardwalk and destroyed rides are haunting and mesmerizing.  I hope everyone’s power returns as quickly as possible. It’s reassuring to see the president and governors of both political parties do their jobs to secure funding for the clean-up as soon as possible.

Because of Sandy’s destruction, I hope there is more conversation regarding climate change and greater action to address it. I remember a cover story  Newsweek ran a little over a year ago which stated because of climate change extreme weather is the new norm.  Yet, despite articles like Newsweek’s and countless research that has addressed climate change, the issue has been totally absent from the 2012 election. It wasn’t that way in 2008, however. Then candidate Barack Obama mentioned it several times in his 08 campaign, and even his opponent, John McCain, addressed it. Since then, when the Democrats had majorities in the House and Senate, they tried to pass a cap and trade bill that addressed the issue, but it was torpedoed by countless GOP filibusters. After that, there’s been little to no talk of the issue. The president, to his credit, has used stimulus money and tax credits to develop new, cleaner energy, but it’s not enough.

Now, however, there is an opening to bring back the issue, especially if the president is re-elected. Since the hurricane, reporters have started discussing the issue again. NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo and NJ Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, have also mentioned it when addressing the hurricane destruction. This should allow the Democrats to address the issue again and the GOP to move more to the middle and accept science, even though Mitt Romney denounced climate change during all of those primaries last year. Sandy has proved that this country needs to get serious about the issue and start preparing, before the next catastrophe.

Sandy also raises one other important issue, and that is the role of the federal government. Reporters have brought up the point that in 2011, during a primary debate, Romney said states should handle emergencies on their own and there is no need for FEMA, due to its cost. Yet, we’ve seen with Sandy, that in times of crisis, the federal government is needed. The states can not handle the costs and clean-up on their own.  Not only has Sandy rekindled the debate over climate change, but also the issue of the role of government. Both are serious issues worth discussion, especially with a major election only a few days away.