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Into thin air: Carol Ann Duffy presents poems about our vanishing insect world


To mark the end of her poet laureateship, Duffy introduces new poems celebrating the beauty and variety of an insect world facing extinction by Alice Oswald, Daljit Nagra, Paul Muldoon and more

Which is lovelier and more true: “Brexit means Brexit” or “Where the bee sucks, there suck I”? The ugly meaninglessness of Theresa May’s dire mantra, wailed as David Cameron fled to the shed, is a prime cause of our current political chaos, just as surely as Ariel’s sweet song continues to remind us of our vital connection to the natural world. When we demean language, we demean our lives, our society and ultimately our planet. Poetry stands against this, timelessly, in Sappho, Shakespeare, John Donne, Emily Dickinson ...

I could have invited the poets gathered here to write about Brexit, but there is something more important. Earlier this year, the journal Biological Conservation published the first global scientific review of the insect population, recording that more than 40% of species are declining and a third are endangered. The journal concludes, “unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades. The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic.” As school children all over the world demonstrate against climate change and Extinction Rebellion carry their trees on to Waterloo Bridge, here are several newly commissioned poems, and one of mine, that celebrate and properly regard insects, as poets have done since Virgil. Everything that lives is connected and poetry’s duty and joy is in making those connections visible in language. Carol Ann Duffy

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