Vinita Agrawal Poetry Editor


    Usawa’s June issue is dedicated to our planet and all the different intersections that allows. I wanted this issue’s Poetry Section to reflect on conceptual, philosophical, social and political foundations of a new era of citizen science. The section does indeed reflect work that reconsiders conventional wisdom about correlation and causation vis a vis the Earth and the manner in which we inhabit it. These poems refuse to turn away from the climate catastrophe and species extinction. They give climate, nature and pollution the prominence it deserves. They are sincerely invested in sustainability and biodiversity. At this pivotal time for our species and our planet, literature has taken on the mantle of informing readers about threats, consequences and solutions based on scientific facts, not political prejudice or business interests.

    I cannot help but share a few relevant statistics here. According to Global Forest Watch, India has lost more than 1,20,000 hectares of primary forests in the last 5 years alone. In all probability, we have also lost an equal amount of green cover to road-widening projects and related infrastructure development. How many old trees – mangoes, neem, jamun and banyans – have been axed to widen the roads around our cities? No one seems to know or care. But everyone can see that the rampant tree-felling has drastically changed the climate for the worse, exponentially driven up air pollution levels, and changed temperatures so that day and night summer heat is close to infernal.

    Felling trees is just one dimension of climate change. There are so many more that require our urgent attention as well. As poets and writers we need to pick up our pens and sensitise readers to the tragic impact of climate catastrophe- the worst of them being species extinction.

    In his essay “The Myth of Sisyphus,” Albert Camus says the only serious philosophical question is suicide. And here we are about to commit planet suicide.

    In “Weightlifter Poems,” Joe Bolton, a poet who committed suicide a month before his collection of poems was to be released, wrote :

    Not of cancer, not of old age,
    But suddenly—
    As when the bar slips
    And the iron comes crashing through my chest
    Like the planet through some unlucky ceiling.
    And I will be the man No one remembers

    J o e B o l t o n ‘ s poetry, from The Last Nostalgia: Poems 1982-1990.

    When we love the earth, we are able to love ourselves more fully. I believe this. Our ancestors believed it. Let’s put it into practice. I hope each of the poems here speak to you as they did to me. I’d like to sincerely thank each and every contributor for their heartfelt writing. I hope they will make your sensibilities shift on the fulcrum and allow you to lean towards saving the planet, rather than destroying it.

    In solidarity with all species

    Vinita Agrawal Author of four books of poetry, – Two Full Moons (Bombaykala Books), Words Not Spoken (Brown Critique), The Longest Pleasure (Finishing Line Press) and The Silk Of Hunger (AuthorsPress), Vinita is an award winning poet, editor, translator and curator. Joint Recipient of the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2018 and winner of the Gayatri GaMarsh Memorial Award for Literary Excellence, USA, 2015. She is Poetry Editor with Usawa Literary Review. Her work has been widely published and anthologised. Her poem won a prize for the Moon Anthology on the Moon by TallGrass Writers Guild, Chicago 2017. More recently her poem won a special mention in the Hawker Prize for best South Asian poetry. She has contributed a monthly column on Asian Poets on the literary blog of the Hamline university, Saint Paul, USA in 2016-17. In September 2020, she edited an anthology on climate change titled Open Your Eyes (pub. Hawakal). She judged the RLFPA poetry contest (International Prize) in 2016 and co judged the Asian Cha’s poetry contest on The Other Side ‘ in 2015. She is on the Advisory Board of the Tagore Literary Prize. She has curated literary events for PEN Mumbai. She can be reached at

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