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Young Aussie poets call for meaningful climate action

From the curve of an ancient gum leaf, to bleached coral and the endangered red goshawk, the winning poems announced on November 17 in the second year of the POEM FOREST Prize carry fierce calls for climate action, meditations on hope, and deep love and care for the natural world that sustains us.

The 18 winning and highly commended nature poems were selected from over 5,700 entries by K-12 students and their teachers across Australia and revealed at a digital Winners Announcement Ceremony hosted by Zetland-based Red Room Poetry and DART Learning.

The POEM FOREST Prize plants a tree for every poem entered to create positive climate action and empowers the voices of young people. More than 10,000 trees have been planted at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan in two years.

The 2022 POEM FOREST Prize winners were selected by judges, author of Bindi and Gunai poet Kirli Saunders OAM, co-founder of Good Life Permaculture and guest presenter on Gardening Australia Hannah Moloney, Senior Botanist at the Australian Institute of Botanical Science Dr Marco Duretto and 2021 POEM FOREST Upper Secondary winner Saufi Risal.

Kirli Saunders reflects that, “In walking through the poem forest, I found that our next generation of poets are truth tellers, they’re conservationists and they believe in the hope of radical action. They weave poetic techniques seamlessly and paint pictures with their words of the world we live in, and the one we long for. Both worlds feel safer in their hands, and I can’t wait to see what our next generation of writers, poets, truth tellers and game changers create next.”

Hannah Moloney says, “What a remarkable collection of poems. A reminder that we’re not just here to observe Nature, but we are in fact Nature ourselves. This stuff is instinctual and these poems are stunning proof of just that.”

Livinia M, who is in Year 5 at St Columbkilles Catholic Primary School in NSW, said she wrote her prizewinning poem “Guardian Angel” after a hard day at school. “A cockatoo came and cheered me up. It was a special moment and I was glad to write about it. The poem is written in the shape of a bird and is written messily at the start like my feelings and thoughts, and calms down and focuses when she arrives.”

Mischka A, who is in Year 6 at Balmain Public School in NSW, said of her highly commended poem “The Red Goshawk”: “I’m really passionate about the environment and hold a firm opinion that no species deserves to die out, even spiders. I really hope the red goshawk doesn’t die out – and this magnificent creature has a really decent chance of becoming extinct, as the rarest bird in Australia.”

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Read the winning poems at: redroompoetry.org/projects/poem-forest/winners

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