People Need Nature/Young Poets Network Fourth Poetry Challenge. Winners and highly commended poems in “Poems to solve the Climate Crisis.”

We are delighted to announce the winners of the 4th People Need Nature/Young Poets Network poetry challenge, set by poet Louisa Adjoa-Parker. Louisa asked young poets across the world to write about nature and the climate. This is particularly relevant as we head towards the make or break global climate conference COP26, taking place in a few weeks time in Glasgow.

The challenge “Poems to solve the climate crisis” inspired 118 poets from around the world, to submit 160 poems that tackle the impact of the climate and ecological crisis on nature and people; and how people can work with nature to tackle the climate and ecological crisis.

We are publishing the winning and highly commended poems today, and are also delighted to announce that the winning poets will be travelling (by train) to Glasgow to perform their poems as part of the COP26 conference at noon on the 6th November, as part of The Green Zone.

We will give more details of how to watch the poets perform their poems nearer the time, but if you’re going to COP26 you’ll find them in the Green Zone Tower Base North.

1st Prize An Alternative Geometry of the Universe – Maggie Wang 

An Alternative Geometry of the uUniverse

In June, Ba buys cherries, and we run our fingers along the skins,
which gleam like piano keys or the moon after fog.

We eat the cherries on the back porch,
watching the maples turn the last of the sunlight over their leaves.

Above, the clouds are gathering again,
and the birds are tracing fractals along their edges.

After midnight, the wind will tessellate them across the mountains;
on the other side, they will yawn rain into the sea.

Feeling the rain, the salmon will swim upstream to spawn
as the water ices over above them.

The bears will be waiting in welcome by the bank,
past the rapids, where the current seems to still.

A few bees will have followed the bears to the water,
beating the cold in spirals from the air.

On the way, they will have passed an orchard beginning to bloom
and dipped their tongues between the petals as they flew.

In their wake, the sky will have swarmed heavy with pollen
and the scent of sugar thickening into cherries.

2nd A Positively Violent Poem in 5 parts – Jayant Kashyap

(contains strong language)

A Positively Violent Poem in 5 Parts


           That day we ruined the swimming pool

everyone was a hypocrite          and angry

                               we pulled out the tiles with bare hands          and nails

           our knuckles bled quietly into tattoos when

we couldn’t notice          that day we planted eighty-

four trees          one for everyone present there

                     because later the trees could oxygenate          water

           whereas the pipes were pvc          and so the chairs          and there

was no time for decomposition          or conversations

           that day we ruined the swimming pool          we didn’t

really ruin it          only when we left     it wasn’t so blue anymore

           a bit dry          a little muddy          that day we left it like nature


           We then broke sinks and showers during the night

and placed flowerpots everywhere we could          it was

like readying a graveyard for flowers          before there were any

            like there are instances when rivers part from land

and all one could do is wait          and on a wall     graffitied

           the dead have no use for flowers          but this truth is offensive

and unnecessary

          we tell them          plant little flowering shrubs

in their name every once in a while          the shrubs equal water

                    oxygen          love


           Next morning we were met by a racket of people

wanting to talk          discuss          having a mind to argue

                    swear for generations          fuck!          prepared to fight

          kill someone          saying          son it doesn’t matter who –

or what – you are          money is god          so we threw five-pound

notes in water          see if god couldn’t dissolve


          And that evening we cleaned the beach

there were more people with us now          than against

          we noticed the beach had more plastics and whatnot

and not shells          even the castles the kids built near water

weren’t pure sand anymore

          sometimes the bottlecaps serve as lighthouse roofs

          sometimes the straws as flag posts          as catheters

for turtles


          On the third day we then advocated

the use of cups          mugs          tumblers          bottles          jugs

          buckets          tanks          even larger containers


          then animal lives          a whale doesn’t bother about capitalism

          racism          but it worries about water          what we do with it

when it’s not ours to have

          we distributed in the midst of light disdain leaflets          basically

small chits          reading          a head full of plastics is of no use to


3rd Prize: Mycelium Under the Canopy – Brooke Nind

Mycelium Under the Canopy

Under the canopy we planted trees and mushrooms—

the mushrooms sang, nutrients pooling 

around them, humus darkening in delight.

Under the canopy the trees and mushrooms worked

in tandem, pushing water through the dirt,

underground transportation.

Under the canopy the mushrooms bore fruit,

bore our burdens, bore everything.

Under the canopy we cut open our houses,

found mushrooms, rolled them in our palms.

Under the canopy we dug a ditch, clawed

into the earth and found mycelium, dipped

our fingers into cleansed water.

Under the canopy we cried over oil spills,

sent mushrooms to the shore to absorb

the chemical pains of the thickened waters.

Under the canopy we dreamed of mushrooms,

grown thick and fluffy like marshmallows– they latched 

onto our worries, decomposing them while we slept.

Highly Commended

Sixteen Haiku – Daniel Clark

Sixteen Haiku

empty chairs
the statues have gone back
to the other museum

(George Seferis)

at the end of the garden a pear tree alone

hair tied –

silent sheep

eating nettles

he carves his name into his tree

the last rays

leaves reaching

for light


summer’s breeze

plastic box



a plaque on a chair in a fire


messages daubed

in delible ink

                        washed away


trash talk

cops and canapés

promises in jet fumes



swimming in silence

no current


apathy appears

the answer

to our non-questions


where were you

when the seas

were warming?


fig leaf

                        in a bottle


beyond the trees

a cloud



message in a bottle in rising seas


ancient oak


a hundred years


empty chairs

the people have gone

back to sleep

Letter to a loving husband – Irma Kiss Barath

Letter to a Loving Husband

Charles, let me tell you what I saw:

in the last leg of our journey,

rats ate the victuals. I had hoped

for stars and jewels, yet here the ship 

spat back something hollow and actual. 

In our hunger, we gnawed on oars 

and barrel planks like teething babies.

On the seventh day, we saw a blot 

creased in the distance. From closer 

it became an island, of a curious

shifting beauty. Heady visions sprouted

behind our eyes and for the first time

I saw the water clinging to our ship. 

Then, strange noseless animals 

slapping our ship’s wooden hull,

mussels flapping their shells and birds

noising loudly on the seashore.

But Charles, if you only saw the island’s 

burning eels. These toothless creatures, 

plunged into a bucket, will make water

boil. Already we have plucked an elver 

to heat our humble camp, to light up 

the teeming blue beach. It’s true,

since arriving we have burnt nothing, 

not a twig. 

But the nights are new and fitful,

our hands wet guests in this land 

without people. We pray:

Let sweat succeed the 

seawater beating the rocks, 

Let the sea stay still and low.

I lay here, my back padded in bumps

and open bites, if only to bid you:

Tonight when you lay down your head

smell this salt smell with me

think of the water clubbing itself 

and drift like a sea-cleaned pebble

into sleep. Forget the unstoppable

coming silence, the clear

airless waters, free of life. 

Think instead of your love

standing here wishful

with her fistful of fish.

Incantation (for a sea change) – Jamie Baty

Incantation (for a sea change) 

The earth beneath my feet is speaking,
Calling to me in a language I no longer remember.

The earth that whispers at my feet,
Whose wrinkles form roots and concrete cracks and
Whose curled-up weeping spills in steady sewers of grief.

This earth beneath my garden that squeezes ever newer
Ever brighter miracles
Out through its pores,
That presses cold against my feet in early spring,
And breathes out wild chervil clouds in summer.

That earth, fevered brow pressing out the moulds of the hills,
Sickness slipping through your trepanned skull.
That earth, whose trembling arms are the sea and whose hollow chest 
Is the sky in which we rattle like dry beads.

That earth that whispers at my feet – 

And moss presses up through the cracks like tongues,
              everywhere its fine fur is pouring up to cover
              cars bicycles balconies swimming pools around our legs
              and all our sounds are muffled by the breathing green
              that goes on rising well above our mouths and slows
              slows our bodies until blood moves thick as sap
              and planes hang there suspended

we have paused

and like a word unsaid we feel the moss restoring

knitting water into ice

stretching roots from lumber

and dyeing leaves a deeper green 

until the first snow shows through the moss 
and the first branches, the hairs of the first head

until a pulse returns, as before but slower
and a spot of green on a fallen tree 

conducts each rising breath.

Walking to the Train Station – Aliyah Begum

Walking to the Train Station

One day, you will notice the bluebird asthma pump,

Hear the birdsong vapour slice through grey fumes

And soothe the inflamed tarmac of these wheezing streets.

It hides in the tree, modest until it decides to sing.

Its plastic sapphire beak harmonises with the white noise 

Of your earphones (only one side of which still works).

It dispels the grey haze that exhausts, but today

Its turbine wings clamour for your attention.

You step over the broken glass that shimmers beneath feet,

The drunk confetti outside the pub from last night.

But you miss the magpie sorting through the shards,

Clinking them into different recycling bins, unseen.

You see the mayonnaise outline of the discarded chips,

Ketchup packet exploded onto the pavement crime scene,

But not the goldfinch that wears her high-vis with pride.

She picks up the crisp packets from grass verges,

Before they reach the polluted depths of a local puddle. 

You gaze across these pools of mercury,

And finally notice the world looking back.

Upside down and inside out, it pleads with you, 

Asks you to take care of these streets you cross,

Your allotment in the garden of this unruly world.

But you don’t listen, distracted by the 

Sound of an engine fading further away.

You have missed your train too.

65 Cybele – Sabrina Guo

65 Cybele 

In the summer

when it pours,

a lake forms 

in my backyard, 

rivulets soaking 

the grass—

a jungle monsoon


of miles away.

My boots heavy

in the rain, 

I share my sorrow 

with calming droplets

and hear my truth, 

recall that

I was born in Queens,

of which I remember little

except for smoke unfurling 

from apartment roofs

before my family moved 

to Long Island,

which is hardly an island 

at all. It’s not tropical 

for one thing, and you don’t need 

a boat or a plane 

to get there. In Oyster Bay,

it snows in the winter,

cold enough for hot

cocoa and heavy coats.

The blades of my skates 

cut into the ice 

but they don’t break the surface

as the frozen asteroid

65 Cybele did

four point five billion 

years ago, breaking off 

a chunk of rock

that then became the moon.

In concert with the sun,

that solar nebula 

collapsed by gravity

spread its tendrils 

over the earth, melted

the ice that remained

into bodies of water. 

But where did the asteroid’s ice 

come from in the first place?

I can’t help but ask 

when I feel the blades 

of my skates tracing lines,

knowing full well

all stories must start 


water is made of molecules 

and molecules

are made of atoms 

and atoms are made 

of neutrons, electrons, 

and protons—

opposite forces,

that need each other

to form life.

Everything a process—

an experience 

of coming

into contact 

with the other. 

a united solution – Renée Orleans-Lindsay 

a united solution

the solution isn’t ‘go green’. 

rather, it’s quite a marshy brown;

all the colours on the spectrum thrust together,

pulled into braided harmony.

might the sagging glaciers of the himalayas, dribbling into the yangtze and the indus,

be nourished with kitschy korean neoprene? 

those gutsy, ebullient women divers; grasping cold abalone.

the waning coral reefs

crumbling into chroma before your eyes –

your child’s eyes

might they be galvanised by ghanaian manganese, 

buzzing phone-chip’s life and breath?

it’s coalition we need; london’s taxis fuelling lima’s arid faucets, 

china’s offal coursing through phones rather than waters,  

tit-for-tat, recycling, redistribution –

and if everyone made some contribution

today’s teetering future might be solid, stuck 

here’s a prayer for humanity and good luck.

The Ocean Makes Creatures of Us – Yvanna Vien Tica

The Ocean Makes Creatures of Us

I am watching the ocean drown

us in a fit of love. The sand sticks

to the alcove of my knees. There is a mother

dipping the child into the water, laughing. 

The child is slipping in the sand,

webbed toes shimmering on a long

silver fin. The mother is crying

from laughing too hard, and looks 

at her feet. Then she is crying from watching her child swim 

away. I am building a castle in the sand only for the ocean 

to wash away it apologetically. There 

is a weight stringing across my chest, 

and I panic until I realize 

it’s just the ocean, rising.

My phone sizzles in my pocket 

and I hear a politician crying 

out for Noah. But why 

would he want animals

like us? No, I am ready 

to go. I hold my breath

until my hair winds around my neck 

like seaweed. The sun weaves silk

into the water, and the fish nuzzle me

instead of swimming away. I breathe.

When my feet fuse together, I swim 

to the mother, laughing. Then we watch 

her toes disappear too, replaced 

with a long, silver fin. She is crying 

from having breathed too much 

air. The water embraces us. 

I watch the mother swim away with her child. 

The ocean kisses me in a fit of love.

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