Hawk on Wire: Ecopoems

Hawk on Wire: Ecopoems

By Scott T. Starbuck. Fomite Press: Burlington, VT 2017.

Climate change science and prophecy explored in poetry are themes in Hawk on Wire: Ecopoems with endorsements from notable writers John Shoptaw, John Keeble, Daniela Gioseffi, Anne Elvey, Simmons B. Buntin, Gail Entrekin, Michael Spring, Thomas Rain Crowe, Teresa Mei Chuc, Senior Research Scientist at IPAC Caltech Yun Wang, Prartho Sereno, Eric Magrane, and Daniel Hudon. The book is a record of ecological disaster caused by global heating, and informed prophecy of what will happen unless humanity changes from fossil fuels to renewable energy in the next five years from 2017 to 2022. Poems acknowledge widespread complicity of those in developed nations focusing “only [on] the language of hunger, sex, territory” and imagine “How We Stopped Corporate Psychopaths From Cooking Planet Earth.” They reach into the vulnerable area of the human psyche Franz Kafka wrote about: “The dream reveals the reality, which conception lags behind. That is the horror of life – the terror of art.” Starbuck blends history, climate science updates, personal activism, and poetic imagination to paint that “reality” currently affecting island nations, millions of current climate refugees, and vanishing ecological community we share in land, sea, and sky. Included are a series of imagined ghosts speaking about climate change (Mark Twain, Socrates, Ed Abbey, Mother Teresa, Galileo, Bukowski, T’ao Ch’ien, Rilke, Orwell, and Martha, the last passenger pigeon who died 1914 in Cincinnati Zoo: “The hum of steel rails was the song //foretelling my death and yours, / my captivity and your insincerity instead of / no trains, no tracks, no cages”).
Most of these poems were written at a 2016 PLAYA Art, Science, and Community Collaboration in the Oregon Outback.

All are invited to the 6 p.m. May 2, 2017 book launch / reading / panel discussion with Univ. of San Diego artist Allison Wiese and Chair and Professor of the Marine Science and Environmental Studies Department at the University of San Diego Michel A. Boudrias at Vanguard Culture Park6 590 Fir St., San Diego.  There is a $5 suggested donation.

Starbuck’s activism includes calling TV/news stations on behalf of San Diego area tribes in solidarity with water protectors near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, reading to over 500 climate activists at a December 12, 2016, Rally for Climate Justice in San Diego’s Balboa Park, serving on the coordinating committee of the Road Through Paris action at San Diego 350.org, volunteer editing and writing at SanDiego350.org, moderating climate change film showings /workshops at his college, attending nonviolent protests, and updating his ecoblog Trees, Fish, and Dreams at riverseek.blogspot.com. With Antarctic CO2 at 400 parts per million for the first time in 4 million years, threat of a huge Arctic methane release, and melting glaciers bringing inevitable sea level rise predicted to affect hundreds of millions of humans, he agrees with activists and creatives insisting nonviolent actions are vital now. Starbuck currently lives near Vancouver, Washington, and in San Diego, where he teaches an Honors Climate Change Poetry Seminar at San Diego Mesa College. He will gladly give readings and /or workshops on climate change poetry. Sample readings are online on his ecoblog.

Five poems from the book are included below:

Staring at PLAYA Pond Thinking of Impermanence

When you hold someone or something dying,
you move through layers of grief and acceptance,
grief again, acceptance, a space-time dragonfly
on a farm pond near a rope swing
as Giant Bass of Death leaps, bites, swallows,
splashing artfully invisible as whole scene
of fading planets, lovers, parents
rings in shadow of spirit angler working the water.

Near Paisley, Oregon

the ancient lake’s giant
redband trout
fin small creeks.
Among swirling
ice sculptures
in thawing Chewaucan River,
I daydreamed their lateral lines
as one long red sunset
after a bad storm,
Buddhist monks
pushing children
on swings.

* This poem first appeared in San Diego Reader.

Wind Chimes at Lazy Hummingbird Café 3/17/17

This morning China warned Trump
not to make trouble with North Korea.

Nearby, a giant black lab who could bite
your hand off licks his paw.

Chimes play louder as sparrows position
for food and territory.

I give stink eye to a kid shooting truck exhaust
while reading his phone.

One bumper sticker says “Think Before You Eat”
and another “God is greater.”

Wilderness feeding this place, these people
and lessons, is falling apart.

One Frog

in a pot
with heat rising,

going extinct
in Brazil,

in high school,

brain scrambled
in college,

appearing as cloud
with human face

the four horsemen:


funding sources,

Desert Wind

says ochre and black petroglyphs
of spirals, lightening strikes, animal shapes
rooted in spirit and land
may outlast the human species
who created them.

Scott T. Starbuck is a poet / activist with residencies, fellowships, or awards from Artsmith on Orcas Island,  PLAYA, Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, Beyond Baroque, and Pudding House.  He was a Friends of William Stafford Scholar at the “Speak Truth to Power” Fellowship of Reconciliation Seabeck Conference, and was voted Teacher of the Year by students at Glendale Community College in Arizona.  His previous book of climate change poems is Industrial Oz: Ecopoems (Fomite, 2015).