What We’re Reading Now recommendations from Rishi Dastidar. Neptune’s Projects, a collection of eco-themed poems, is his latest release, on 27th April 2023 with Nine Arches press.
Rishi’s poetry has been published by the Financial Times and BBC amongst many others. He is a fellow of The Complete Works, and a consulting editor at The Rialto magazine. A poem from his debut collection Ticker-tape was included in The Forward Book of Poetry 2018, and his second collection, Saffron Jack, was published in the UK by Nine Arches Press in 2020. He is also editor of The Craft: A Guide to Making Poetry Happen in the 21st Century (Nine Arches Press), and co-editor of Too Young, Too Loud, Too Different: Poems from Malika’s Poetry Kitchen (Corsair).
“I can’t claim any great new startling insights in my thinking on climate change, but three books that have been important to me actually getting my head around things are:
1) Sustainable Energy – Without The Hot Air by the late David JC MacKay; no doubt it’s been superseded now, but at the time I read it, it was revelation that energy system change is actually possible;
2) Being Ecological by Timothy Morton, from which I took that maybe we can engage with this subject in different tones and a lightness of heart and spirit;
3) Why Rebel by Jay Griffiths, which, bluntly, should be our generation’s Gettysburg Address. ”
What do you do when you are a god – but powerless and unable to prevent one of your favourite species from their insatiable, accelerating death wish? Do you try to shout louder and more insistently, or instead reinvent yourself as a troubadour of romantic ruin? Such are the dilemmas posed by Rishi Dastidar in his third poetry collection Neptune’s Projects, a reshaping of mythology for the climate crisis era which gives bold consideration to the stark choices we face. A post-apocalyptic jig and reel, these poems are compelling, deadpan yarns of the sea, full of both fury and fun. In Neptune’s Projects the end of humanity is made wry, thrilling – and alive.
Rishi says: ‘Neptune’s Projects didn’t start out as an attempt to write a book of eco-themed poems. Rather, it emerged from trying to give the sea a character and voice. That the voice happened to be weary yet kind, angry, resigned, sarcastic too, was a happy accident as it allowed me to think about the end of the world in a different way; not a big explosion but a series of whimpers, where a figure who should be powerful discovers themselves to be as hamstrung. That, as a metaphor for the current state of where we are now when it comes to climate change, was too pleasing to resist.’
POEM OF THE MONTH
At The Autoimmune Retreat | Vasiliki Albedo
The farmhouse was strung in corpse vine,
the kitchen full of dead bodies.
Animal protein at every meal will stabilize
your cortisol levels, the facilitator chirped.
I sheafed my shedding hair
and burnt it on the bonfire.
In the garden, roots were rotting
after autumn floods that followed
a summer of brushfires.
I walked the fields in a periwinkle crown,
thinking about my body changing
undeniably like the climate.
Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis?
The tests were inconclusive, but my biology
wouldn’t speak ceasefire.
I googled the profession with the lowest
suicide rate, thought forward
to sleeping again as my temperature kindled.
At the breakfast buffet Christie joked,
We need year-round strawberries
like we need another wildfire.
I overwatered hydrangeas and orchids,
my joints tender, hair like the plastinated
nervous system at Body Worlds.
There was snow on the news
in a faraway country that wasn’t snow
but rubble. I tucked into doughnuts
that make a tree of me, adding
each year another ring.
Great forests were being slashed
into fuelwood, the Congolese okapi dying.
These things happen.
Every friend on Instagram looked
ecstatic. Under cartoon clouds
of nitrogen we sprayed our bodies
with mosquito poison.
My thighs puckered and shook
as the earthquake-pleated city I come from.
Every contact leaves a trace.
Fingerprints are the small wounds
grooved when a baby touches the womb.
I deadheaded the garden,
each lovesick cricket stopped singing.
We talked about disease so much
the word undid itself.
On the last night, we bathed
under a light-grazed sky.
Vasiliki Albedo is a poet and renewable energy strategist living in Greece. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, Magma, Poetry Review, Poetry London, Oxford Poetry, Poetry Wales, The Rialto and elsewhere. Her poetry portfolio Arcadia won Poetry International’s summer 2021 chapbook competition. Her pamphlet Fire in the Oubliette was joint winner in Live Canon’s competition.
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