We Are A Many-Bodied Singing Thing is a new anthology of speculative poetry and fiction, inspired by endangered species and the people saving them. Download it for free and watch the virtual launch below!
Virtual Launch: watch it here.
The things that give me the most hope in this time of revelation and reckoning are on both ends of a scale of magnitude: I find hope in people imagining different futures, telling different stories and refusing to give in to the narrow visions that our dominant narratives give us. And I also find hope in people who are saving our non-human kin one by one, loving one species at a time until they're safe.
Speculative fiction and poetry are one way to span this scale: the minutiae of good storytelling grounding us, combined with a commitment to the future that can offer expansive visions which make better worlds possible.
For the past two years, I’ve been an artist in residence with Back from the Brink; in the course of learning about the many amazing projects, two of them spoke loudly to my love of speculative fiction and poetry –
Firstly, the Willow Tit project – these little birds excavate their own nest holes in rotting deadwood, and thrive in post-industrial areas that we might consider wastelands. I wanted to think about what unexpected alliances we might have with plants and animals, and what life might spring up in places we’ve written off.
Secondly, Ancients of the Future is taking care of the ancient trees which become ecosystems in themselves, home to literally thousands of other beings. The young trees planted now will watch our world change as they become ancients. What might they see? And how can we protect them?
I wanted to bring the work of conservationists together with the imaginations of writers. In an open call out, I asked writers to explore how we might take care of the world around us as our ways of living change. I was hungry for ideas about how humans and non-human beings might create better relationships. And of course, the writers came through magnificently – with visions of empathy, fierceness, and imagination.
When I was selecting the pieces to include, I looked for pieces that were future oriented – but in both big and small ways; so an instance of everyday compassion for an insect sits alongside space bees, and a moment between lovers with a companion tree makes conversation with a story about a rogue AI with a love for Willow Tits.
The other form of speculation that made its way into these pages is the kind that imagines us into the paws, claws, bark, and roots of other beings. This is another power that writing can offer in these times: to see from the point of view of creatures very different from us, offering new kinds of connection, warning, and kinship. The metamorphoses some writers offer – spanning a timeline from a present-day fox who finds herself human, to mosses in the next millennium – explore our changing relationships to nature, and imagine transformations that help us see what’s possible.
I was particularly happy to find some queer voices among the submissions. Queer folks have reinvented kinship through sheer will, creating spaces for ourselves by changing structures which excluded us. What could this power do if we expanded our ideas of kin to non-human beings? How might the hard-won re-imagining of our belonging help us to find a more balanced and reciprocal place in this world?
Working with Back from the Brink has given me insight into the on-the-ground work that makes changing our relationships to non-human beings possible. I have been privileged to contribute some of my art and imagination to these projects, and to explore some of the things that creativity can bring to shaping the futures these creatures need. I hope this anthology inspires you to find out more, and to dream of new ways of being with the animals, plants, and fungi with whom we share the Earth.
We were going to launch the book at the Cooper Gallery in Barnsley at the end of March 2020. Of course, events overtook us and we're now living in the realms of speculative fiction ourselves...
However, though we couldn't meet we still wanted to give the book a proper send off into the world - so we have put together a virtual launch! Contributors to the book filmed readings of their pieces and conservationists talked about their work, and we've made it into a film version of what the launch night would have included.
So grab yourself a glass of wine or cup of tea, and sit back and enjoy an hour of poems, conservation, and stories. Please let us know what you think on on social media - @naturebftb!
Linden Katherine McMahon.
Back from the Brink poet and artist in residence.
Would you like to help these incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:
- Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
- Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
- Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.