In February 2021, in the depths of a national lockdown, poets met scientists and environmental researchers for a special, online collaboration event. Poets Nnimmo Bassey, Deryn Rees-Jones, Rebecca Sharp, Zaffar Kunial, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Janette Ayachi, Isabel Galleymore and Lindsey Holland met up with environmental engineers Champika Liyanage and Jonathan Kinnear, environmental humanities scholar Candice Satchwell, geomicrobiologist Oliver Moore, and geologists Patrick Corbett, John Bolland and Stuart Harker. Many of the scientists are also poets and creative practitioners, and many of the poets have a background in environmental humanities research. Editors and poets contributing to
Patrick Corbett, John Bolland and their contacts have played an instrumental role in Magma’s Anthropocene Issue, as geologists, creative practitioners, and enthusiastic members of a thriving network of geologically-minded poets. We are very pleased to showcase some examples of their geopoetry here.
Patrick Corbett is a geologist and poet. After working as an academic oil and gas geologist for 35 years, he took up poetry and has edited Earth Lines: Geopoetry and Geopoetics (2021). He is on the Board of the Scottish Poetry Library and is involved with the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics and the School of Poets in Edinburgh.
Patrick Corbett writes: ‘I am a geoscientist by training and, inspired by the concrete poetry of Edwin Morgan and the poems of Kenneth White, I have been writing geopoetry and imbibing geopoetics for a few years. In this poem, “The Anthropocene Golden Spike,” I imagine how a geologist – some millennia into the future – will record the start of the Anthropocene in a traditional graphic log which – as a geologist will instinctively know – has to be read from the bottom upwards, stanza by stanza.’
In the event the system was almost entirely inoperative and little command or control was exercised…
Enquiry into the Piper Alpha Disaster Vol. 1 Section 8.8
Dad is wearing a survival suit.
He must know.
He does not have a radio.
He does not ask to use the public address system.
He leaves for his private bunker without giving further instructions.
Dad takes no initiative in an attempt to save life. Perhaps not even his own.
All Dad says is: evidence work control module alarm.
Five minutes later he comes running back in a state of panic.
Surely by then he knew?
After that there is confusion delirium commotion heckling.
Dad slumps down trying to calm everyone, saying
‘the whole world knows we are having problems.’
So he knew. He does not seem able to come up with any answer.
No one takes charge.
At this point, Dad says: attribution adaptation mitigation pathways governance systems scenarios
The personnel – the boys and girls, the women and the men,
the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters wait
in the mess. Some of them
will decide they have to find a way out. Some will wait
in the hope of rescue. Some will leave because
there is no point in staying. Some have stayed because they have been told
to wait. Some take the view that they have nothing to lose. Some
simply don’t know what else they can do.
But all Dad says is: private finance sustainable option industrial sequestration future equilibrium ecosystem services weather security human investment indicator billions the fuck the fuck the fuck
There is no systematic attempt to lead us to a means of escape.
A large number make no attempt to leave. The risks of death are considerable.
Those who remain in expectation or obedience will succumb
to the effects of smoke and gases. That is what happened on the Piper.
Dad will never mention: funerals melting engulfing guilt drowning nightmares loss compulsion mates distress grief starving mum shouting rape addiction exile prison rescue youngest grand-child remorse loneliness denial incineration pain…
John Bolland is a writer, poet, artist and musician living and working in the North East of Scotland. His writing, in Scots and English, is widely published in magazines and anthologies including The Interpreter’s House, Northwords Now, The London Magazine and Pushing Out the Boat. His first collection – Fallen Stock – was published by Red Squirrel Press in 2019. His forthcoming collection – Pilbroch – explores parallels between the climate emergency and the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988. Between 1981 and 2014, he was actively involved in the international oil and gas industry in a variety of roles including large scale project management, consultancy and field development. More recently he has been involved in regional organisation for climate activism in the North East of Scotland. Website: www.aviewfromthelonggrass.com.