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February 19, 2014

Poetry for Environmental Preservation: Save Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Promoting Environmentalism


Related topics:
Environmental Health and
Community cleanup

Efforts to preserve the environment can take many forms, some of them unexpected. A Michigan nonprofit, Save the Wild Upper Peninsula (U.P.), wants to do it through poetry. The goal is to encapsulate the beauty of nature in a few verses–or perhaps a sonnet, a la Shakespeare–thus drawing locals to think about preserving that beauty through environmental action.

Save the Wild U.P. is sponsoring a free poetry contest titled, “Putting the Wild into Words”, inviting U.P. residents to submit poems with nature themes or connections to Upper Peninsula’s natural landscape, from February 1 to March 15. Each person can submit one poem to be entered in the contest, and the poems will be judged by U.P. poet laureate Russell Thorburn. Winners will then read with Thorburn in Munising and Marquette.

Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots organization founded in 2004. Its main goals are to protect Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (which extends into Wisconsin and Minnesota) from “unsustainable development, degradation and dangerous contamination” through education and awareness. The watershed of Upper Peninsula is greatly threatened by sulfide mining, and Save the Wild U.P. works with ally organizations to educate residents about the harmful economic and environmental consequences of sulfide mining in the area.

Piers Gorge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; photo by David Banta.

Artistic contests like these help us visualize the importance of our environment and its influence in our daily and creative lives. It is a way to bridge various parts of our communities to begin thinking about important topics, such as environmental protection. These events generate conversation and visibility for a local cause in a setting outside of the organization or interest groups.

For actions that need funding, sponsoring a community-based event, such as a poetry reading, night of local music, or a community cleanup day, can help generate funds and advertise your project. By drawing on a community’s vibrant culture and interests in music, art, and crafts and partnering it with an environmental cause, more people can become aware of your local watershed’s needs and actions.

Posted by Mark Contorno

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