June 2021 to June 2022: Youth Ecopoetry Project

UPDATE:

The San Mateo County Youth Ecopoetry Project culminated on June 30, 2022 with the film, “The Future Is Poetry,” which was an official selection in the Lift-Off Filmmaker Sessions. A shorter version of the film was featured in the Nature & Culture Poetry Film Festival at Kulturhuset Islands Brygge Cultural Center in Copenhagen.

Between 2021 and 2022, I partnered with the San Mateo County Office of Arts and Culture, the San Mateo County Office of Education, the Peninsula Library System, and the San Mateo County Youth Climate Ambassadors to promote my project, and was able to reach over 200 students, with 20 students participating in my group poems and films. In 2022, I collaborated with Filoli Historic House & Garden, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in San Mateo County, to launch the Inaugural Filoli Ecopoetry Award and encourage submissions that engage not only the beauty of nature but also the impacts of climate change. Also in 2022, I launched the Makerspace Poetry Lab in partnership with Redwood City Public Library to inspire poetry-making using recycled objects and tools in the Makerspace, as another way of looking at the world in terms of relationships.


INTRODUCTION:

As part of my Academy of American Poets project, I am organizing ecopoetry workshops and working on a series of short poetry films that will highlight San Mateo County’s ecology and how students grade 12 and below are responding to environmental challenges.

“Ecopoetry generally refers to poetry about ecology, ecosystems, environmental injustice, animals, agriculture, climate change, water, and even food. It emerged in the 1990s as poets questioned the naturalness of “nature poetry,” especially since nature itself was rapidly changing due to global warming and environmental destruction.” (Craig Santos Perez, “Teaching Ecopoetry in a Time of Climate Change,” The Georgia Review Fall 2020).

As a poet and an immigrant, I am compelled to engage the environmental changes around me through the lens of equity and empathy, especially since the places I call home are at risk: San Mateo County is California’s ground zero for sea level rise; while the Philippines is the country most vulnerable to the climate crisis. Hence, these questions: how do we begin to search for more creative solutions to climate change? How can the language of ecopoetry help us reimagine a more sustainable future?

The Academy of American Poets interviewed me about my project and laureateship here.