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Reading Environmental Poetry
in a Time of Climate Change


An Online Workshop on Eco-Poetry


Bob Hass, Professor Emeritus at U. C. Berkeley, Poet Laureate of the United States 1995-1997


Brenda Hillman, Poet, Activist, Professor Emerita at  Saint Mary’s College of California MFA program

Originally aired on February 17, 2024

$25 per person

Earlier generations of poets often looked to Nature for spiritual inspiration, as with Gerard Manley Hopkins’s famous line “The world is charged with the grandeur of God “ in his poem God’s Grandeur. Even so, Hopkins recognized the effects of the industrial revolution on the natural world “searing”,” blearing” and “smearing” and concludes ” the soil is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.”  Yet finally Hopkins had an optimistic vision of the natural world “ And for all this, nature is never spent.”


In this workshop Bob Hass and Brenda Hillman, whose own poetry is so deeply attuned to the natural world, will explore the genre of Eco-poetry, what some have called “worried nature poetry.”


Modern eco -poets, living as they do in times of environmental degradation, express not only the love of the planet, but bring relevant perspectives on the difficulty of being on earth in current times. This selection of poetry beginning with Hopkins to twentieth century poets Robinson Jeffers and Denise Levertov, to several contemporary writers, reflects the ecological challenges of the non-human world and the stress it is under. These poets offer different aesthetics and spiritual perspectives for our discussion, including demonstrating inventive new styles of writing.


Registered participants will be sent the material in advance of the workshop. We highly recommend  reviewing the poems, more than once, to get the most out our time together. 


Bob Hass grew up in Marin County, attended St. Mary's College and Stanford University. He taught American poetry, environmental writing, and creative writing in the English department at the University of California at Berkeley for thirty years during which time he had plenty of occasion to think about poets such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and nature poets past and present. He retired from Cal with the title of Distinguished Chair Emeritus in Poetry and Poetics. A much honored poet, he served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 to1997 and has been awarded both the National Book Award in poetry and the Pultizer prize. His latest book of poems Summer Snow was published in 2020. Since 2022 Bob and Brenda have hosted the St. Columba's Poetry and Spirituality Series beginning with a deep dive into T.S. Eliot's “The Four Quartets” and in 2023 a study of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. 


Brenda Hillman has published collections of poetry with Wesleyan University Press, most recently Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire (2013), which received the Griffin International Prize for Poetry, and Extra Hidden Life, Among the Days (2018). Named by Poets and Writers as one of fifty inspiring writers in the world, Hillman has also worked as an activist for social and environmental justice. Her work has received Fellowships from the Academy of American Poets and the Guggenheim Foundation. With her mother, Helen Hillman, she has  co-translated  Brazilian poet Ana Cristina Cesar’s At Your Feet. From 2016-2021 Hillman served Chancellor for the Academy of American Poets. She lives with her husband Robert Hass, directs the Poetry Week at the Community of Writers, and taught in the M.F.A. Writing Program at Saint Mary’s College of California. Brenda Hillman recently published her new collection of poetry, some poems written during the Pandemic: In a Few Minutes Before Later, Wesleyan University Press 2022. 

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