The phenomenon of Climate Change, the global & worsening effects of which will dominate the rest of everyone’s lives, is a challenge to the foundations & values of all human activities.
It threatens to wipe us out completely, in which case everything humans ever did, ever achieved, will be nothing more than a fart in the cosmic wind.
Poetry will go extinct with the species, just as it was born with the species. Poetry alongside music, dance, & self-decoration are the fundamental human aesthethic activities which emerge with human consciousness, particularly the consciousness of death.
Once the emerging human creature realised the seeming inevitability & finality of death, conceptions of afterlife and consequently of a cosmic order had to follow, making explanations of the origins and meaning of the world of life as well as of the secret world of death necessary – and so the building blocks of culture, conciousness, and eventually civilization are built.
These are crystallised in burial rituals involving music, dance, self-decoration and rythmic, eventually melodic vocal chanting. Anthropologists believe that the inititial rites were imitative of nature – those involved tried to ‘look’ or ‘sound’ or ‘move’ like natural phenomenon. ￼
The vocal chanting which eventually develops into song/poetry, a process which some linguists believe is the origin of language itself, would have been based on birdsong, animal cries, thunder, rain, sea sounds and so on and so on.
The role of the poet was for a few hundred thousand sustainable hominid years to keep alive the memory of the band or tribe, storing all collective practical and mythical knowledge on behalf of the whole.
It is no wonder that 6 of the 7 signatories of The Proclamation were poets, since Ireland was invented by poets and everything we know about Irish heritage & identity was sung into being and continues to be sung on by poets – some with guitars and some without. Every nation and every identity was first put into words, first crystallised by poets.
During the period of the great poisoning of our world by capitalism and imperialism the societies which were founded on oral poetry were wiped off the face of the Earth by societies founded on greed and mass murder. No doubt that, while they were dying of smallpox, or famine, or a gatling gun, legions of indigenous poets placed curses on our civilisation, and now these curses’ time of fulfillment has come.
Now that climate change is, as I and many others believe, about to end urban-industrial civilisation, and may make us extinct altogether, the role of the poet returns full circle to its beginnings in the no-longer-deniable fact of death, except this time it is the death not of individuals but of all human or at least all ‘civilizational’ things that we are called upon to sing.
We must help our people, whoever those people may be to each individual poet, to die and to die without losing their minds, their dignity, their humanity.
We absolutely must not feed any illusions that we are not in the midst of the death of our civilization, and we absolutely must not peddle any miracle cures. No-one is more contemptible and traitorous to humanity than the miracle-monger.
The poet must be one of the stand-out voices, alongside the most fearless & sober-minded of scientists, telling the truth about the unfolding extinction, no matter who is put out by our truth-telling or in denial of it.
It is not all gloomy – what funeral, especially in Ireland, ever is? As poets at the viking funeral of civilisation we are called on to sing both the ups and downs of our past adventures and experiences, our rights and our wrongs, our terrible mistakes as well as our living ecstasies – just as we would orating an individual life.
A poet at the funeral of the world has therefore a very enjoyable & stimulating curatorial role as well as a formally grieving one.
Although we poets are at a disadvantage in being compelled by the nature of our vocation to be the message bearer of the most difficult truths of collapse & extinction come what may, we are at a huge advantage relative to others as we know exactly what we are called upon to do in this situation and we have in fact a crucial role to play when most other human vocations and ‘careers’ are totally and indeed laughably useless to humanity now – and at the hour of our death.
The situation after all is our responsibility, since it is poets and poetry which gave birth to the Gaiacidal hominid line in the first place.
Contact Dave Lordan at email@example.com