Earthspeak #4, Summer 2010

-Reviewed by Juliet Wilson

EarthSpeak is a new online literary journal that explores the ‘relationship between humanity and its home’. As Seth Jani, says in his ‘Letter from the Editor’:

‘Since time immemorial it has been the role of the storyteller, the poet, the shaman, the bard, to bring to light a vision of man and his environment that will rain down order upon the chaotic circumstances of the external world. It is these visionaries who mold from their experience creative works that somehow transcend the merely human and effectively relate man in a new and more nourishing way to the cosmos……. This is why I have created this humble little journal, for it’s time to let the storytellers play their part.’

Each issue of EarthSpeaks is compact, containing a small number of poems along with a short story or a couple of essays. Issue 4 contains work from 7 poets and one short story. Each issue is available on the website or as a downloadable e-book that is available at a small price. All issues are archived on the website.

There is a pleasing variety in the approaches that the writers take to the relationship between humans and nature.

Do Not Feed is a powerful and disturbing short story about animal experimentation, written by K R Sands, whose jobs have included being an animal lab technician. The story focuses on Erlinda, an animal technician who is having second thoughts about some of the experiments she is involved in. Ceci, the researcher on the lead poisoning experiments, takes Erlinda to visit a lead poisoned child, who can hopefully in the future be helped by the results of the experiments the two women are carrying out on the laboratory dogs. The story describes in heart-rending detail the experiments and explores the potential medical benefits that they will bring.

However, the power of the narrative is in the human elements – Erlinda’s mixed feelings, the poverty and ill health of the child and his family. The reader is drawn into the situation and forced to think about the complex moral dilemmas at the centre of this type of work. Most people will find that their sympathies are all with the animals and that they question the true medical value of much of the experimentation. The lead poisoned child is more likely to be helped if, for example, his mother stops cooking in a lead lined pot than as a direct result of the experiments.

Casey Fitzsimmons similarly offers a well balanced view of the issue of invasive plants in her poem ‘Day Without Horizon’ which talks of the ‘immigrants homesick for blue flowers’ who are blind to the future that they have forced on the land:

‘fast-growing super-seeders
tending to monoculture’

However, the publication would feel too serious if all the pieces were issue based, no matter how well balanced and written (and the two discussed above are both!) There are poems on a variety of topics including: a visit to a place of natural beauty (‘Upon Visiting The Grand Canyon’ by Christy Effinger), thunder storms and dying trees (‘Too Little Too Late’ by Joan MacLean) and glow-worms and the nature of light (‘Light: A Variation’ by donnarkevic).

My favourite poems are those by Michael Spring, who is also a natural builder, an occupation that feeds into two of his poems here. ‘The Living Roof’ starts with the striking line:

‘There is a ladder in every masterpiece’

and goes on to describe the ladder in his mud house that:

‘appears most often
when the trees are singing.’

Earthspeak is an interesting and inspiring journal that allows storytellers of all types to play their part in exploring our relationship with the environment.

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