Caught by the River

People Need Nature x Young Poets Network challenge

9th October 2020

Towards Dagenham Docks, by Matt Brown via flickr

People Need Nature is a charity created to highlight the importance of nature – as a source of inspiration, of solace, and of enrichment for people’s spiritual lives. Over the last four years they’ve worked with The Poetry Society’s Young Poets Network, setting challenges inspired by nature for young poets.

This year, the challenge is focused on the subject of access to, or exclusion from nature. ‘It’s clearly a political (small p) issue and we’re aware of and happy with that’, says People Need Nature CEO Miles King. ‘We want to highlight how important nature is in people’s lives – not for how many tonnes of carbon is locked up in a new forest, or how much economic value can be allocated to piece of habitat, but for the intangible, but incredibly important things that we gain from being in nature, being part of nature. And for nature’s own sake.’

He continues: ‘This year, of all years, people have become much more aware of their local surroundings and, in particular, places they can visit to experience nature in their every-day lives – or at least those who were physically able to get out of their houses and weren’t stuck inside shielding. The Covid lockdown threw into sharp contrast the difference between leafy green places, where a few minutes’ walk would gain access to a park or a field full of wildlife, and those dominated by dense high-rise developments with rectangles of close-mown grass.’

Poet Gboyega Odubanjo has written this year’s challenge, in which he dissolves any idea of people being separate from nature, and asks for poems that don’t ignore the human element:

Our lives, whether in the city or the country, are inextricably linked to nature. This is the nature poetry that I am interested in. One that does not disregard the human element or involvement. I want poems that are able to appreciate nature in different, interesting ways. Tell me about the park that sits alongside the shopping centre. Or the spider that finds its way onto the ceiling of your room. What is your relationship to it? How does the rain fall onto the cars parked outside your house? When the sun shines through your window what does it land on? How does nature make its way into your life? How do you make your way into its life? 

Gboyega has offered writing prompts, thinking points, inspiring poems and more, which can be found here.

If you are aged 25 or younger, or you know someone who is, consider sharing and submitting to the challenge for free by 1 November 2020. Judged by Gboyega Odubanjo, selected poets will be published on Young Poets Network and the People Need Nature website, and sent an exclusive Young Poets Network notebook, poetry books and other goodies. The first, second and third-prize winners will also receive £50, £40 and £30 in book tokens respectively, and commended poets will win £10 book tokens.