– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Planet in Peril’ blogtour, organised by Fly On The Wall Poetry Tours.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but b
About a Poet :
Elizabeth Train-Brown – Tigress
Spending her life with the circus, Elizabeth has performed as the fire breathing Phoenix on stage since she was sixteen, writing poetry and fiction behind the scenes.
She now uses her life in the circus and her writing to bring joy, satire and a voice to the silenced, raising awareness for women, LGBT+, and the planet. Elizabeth showcases her talent in producing powerfully loud poetry, standing alongside those who rebel against their extinction.
Elizabeth has had her work published in Crossways Magazine, Wax Poetry & Art, Voices Blog, and other publications. At the end of August, she will attend Beyond Borders’ International Writing Festival, courtesy of her shortlisted poem ‘A Mother in Red’.
When the sciences and the arts begin to work together, a powerful force is created. This anthology was founded on the belief that words have the power to change. Through poetry, photography and art, creatives across the globe, from the age of 8 to 80, have united to express the urgency of global warming, facing the facts but never losing hope.
Endorsement: “A new metaphor is as useful in the climate fight as a new solar panel design. We need poets engaged in this battle, and this volume is proof that in fact they’re in the vanguard!”
Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and leader of the anti-carbon campaign group 350.org.
20% of the profits from this book will be donated to The Climate Coalition and WWF.
Where can you buy it?
Ebook: Released through all retailers on November 1st
Paperback: Released through all international retailers on December 1st
What inspires you to write and how long have you been writing for?
Since I can remember, my parents have encouraged me to channel my ADHD imagination into writing stories and it’s my dream to write novels. But when my depression peaked in the last year, I couldn’t find the same passion I’ve always had. That’s when I turned to poetry and realised how cathartic it could be; it let me get what I needed to get out, without worrying about rules or constraints.
The thing that inspires me the most to write my own kind of poetry, however, is driven by its historical significance in Western culture. I want to do away with the inaccessible pristine poetry we idolise, the kind that could only ever be touched by straight white able-bodied men – the privileged few – who wrote the ‘real’ poetry. I have always aimed to create my own strand of Cixous’ feminine Ecriture which could channel the idea of recreating poetry in our own image: in which mine is queer, disabled, and not quite right but new and fun.
For any minority, it can be so difficult to find ourselves in poetry and even harder to get our work into the public eye but that’s what drove me even more to make sure that people could find poetry they could relate to. I don’t write the template format ‘pretty landscape and pretty woman who probably has a name but we’ll never know it’ that absolutely chokes literature through the centuries so that I can at least have a hand in changing the tide. I want to be a part of that envisioned new breed of poets who are creating work that once again reflects our culture and our voices, using poetry to uplift and inspire – I want to cause a stir.
What inspired this particular poem?
This poem was inspired predominantly by procrastination and a window reflection.
In the middle of revising for my A-Level exams, I happened to glance up and spotted the tattoo on my back of a tiger in the window. I had it done in November last year to honour the tiger in all its glory, gazing at the stars, motivated in part by our family’s connection to circus-performing tigers. My dad’s friend, Martin Lacey, and his sons are internationally famous wild animal trainers and conservation activists. Ringmaster and owner of Great British Circus, Martin used to perform with several adult tigers which was where I first fell in love with them.
So, seeing my tiger reflected in the window, the night-time background behind her, I was struck with this image in my head of coming face to face with a tiger and just feeling that immense power like electricity in the air. Then, as I was scribbling that down, I started thinking about the irony of something that has danger so tightly coiled in its muscle and yet how easily they seem to die; the threat to tiger populations is rising on a massive scale, driven by climate change, poaching, and agricultural expansion. It reasserts, for me, how ludicrous our fear of deadly animals is when we can cause so much destruction without even blinking.
I wrote the poem with the image in mind of coming face to face with a tiger, surrounded by the dystopia of an urban world sprawled into the jungle, carbon dioxide so pumped in the air we’re choking, and tigers so few and so desperate they come crawling into our world.
The focal character is a Tigress; what made you choose to portray a feminine feline and what do you feel she represents?
It represents femininity and power. There’s something striking about a creature so beautiful and so deadly at the same time – which I think of when I think of feminism and of empowered women.
Because the word tiger is so engrained into us (“this tiger population is dwindling”, “poachers caught with this-many tigers”), it can sometimes slip behind our immediate focus, and I think people tend to take notice a little more when they hear tigress. There’s something about the sibilance and the unexpected kind of awe that comes with it – it sounds almost god-like to me. I wanted to create something that read in the head with some resonance that would shift these animals from ‘the dying species’ to the predators we once worshipped and feared in equal measure.
By portraying this feminine feline, it could also represent the parallels between our planet’s struggle and the struggle of women for equality. The tigress is dangerous, she is this thrumming goddess of power and potential, but she dies like any other living creature and she’s desperate, scared, and more vulnerable than she has ever been. It’s like watching a god fall to their knees. Women across the world are the same – they are beautiful, fierce, and powerful but the same people who fear them are the ones who force them back down, the ones who make up the system that so wholly congests our world that a single woman could never fight against them. Our planet’s growing issues, like feminism, need to be tackled together to stand any chance of making a difference – everyone needs to pull their weight.
The narrator and the tigress share eye contact that is fleeting but feels like a lifetime. Both have the immense potential of destroying the other but both are in awe of each other and both recognise the other’s vulnerability. It takes both of them to turn and walk away. When the narrator has the tigress tattooed on her back, she immortalises the tigress for her strength and her danger, recognising both of those qualities in humanity and in women.
Of all the powerful images you describe in your poem, which is your favourite and why?
“Her wild, wild eyes were wide / crackling white sparks in the dark.”
My favourite image in the poem is this one. I love it because there’s an assonance in it that makes the lines resonate, mirroring this stark image of the tigress as a god among the human world. It carries the image in my mind when I imagined the tigress: all this power and destruction boiling behind her eyes like electricity. There’s something distinctly feminine about seeing power in eyes; she’s this metre-tall apex predator of pure muscle, every part of her deadly and threatening, but the narrator sees her power in her eyes. This stands out to her more than anything because there’s power but there’s also vulnerability in them and I think this best represents the similarities between female inequality issues across the world and also the international threat to the environment.
“something immortal / something that I could soak / into my flesh like smoke.”
This image would be my second favourite. It creates this conflicting image of helplessness and empowerment – the desperate desire to help immortalise the tiger but doing nothing to actually help save it from extinction. A friend of mine interpreted this image as the tigress inspiring the narrator to stand up for her own feminism and to channel the power of the tigress, these gods of war and death. I think it’s ambiguous enough that it’s open to debate and that’s what best reflects the issues of ambiguity in tackling the threat to the planet – that desperate need to help, interpreted as ground-breaking and useless in equal parts.
What drew you to submitting to our Planet in Peril anthology?
I found the Planet in Peril anthology by chance while searching for competitions and anthologies to submit to, trying to get my poetry into the public eye. When I read the premise for the collection, I was thrilled because environmental protection and support is one of the things I have always fought for.
Furthermore, I did some research on the Fly on the Wall Press and was delighted to find their slogan – “publisher with a conscience” – which means a lot to me in terms of ethical footprint in the world of literature and in the world itself. It’s one of the many reasons I’m so excited to submit my upcoming collection, read me in the bath, in the next reading window to Fly on the Wall in hopes that it could be my first officially published poetry collection.
As a young person and member of the Extinction Rebellion (feel free to include why/when you joined/what it is), what are your views on the climate crisis?
As a young person, I was brought up worrying about the future and in recent times I’ve seen it go downhill quicker than anyone could have prepared for. On top of rising right-wing extremism, fundamentalism, and half-cocked politicians who take it upon themselves to lock children in cages and mess up an entire nation’s economy (looking at you Donald and Boris), we’re chucking more mess into the atmosphere and into the seas than ever. I grew up, like the rest of my siblings in the younger generation, half-expecting the world to crash and burn before we could afford to own property.
This motivated me to become a member of the Extinction Rebellion. This is an international movement promoting non-violent civil disobedience to protest the ecological crisis, demanding that the government tell the truth about the extent of the danger and bring into law a number of rules to start making a change. It’s a complex movement that is focused on decentralising the effort and encouraging anyone and everyone to spread the word and start rebelling.
As both a young person and a member of Extinction Rebellion, my views on the climate crisis are easy enough to assume. I believe it’s entrenched into our capitalist society to prioritise profit over everything – including ecological health, human lives, and the world – so the climate crisis is complicated to backtrack. However, we’ve seen once before with the hole in the ozone layer, caused by CFCs, that when countries come together and try to change something, it can be done: the use of CFCs was banned and the ozone hole is finally healing. Furthermore, while these selfish drives are almost innate in our culture and humanity, the desire for more more more that has developed a throwaway culture in western society, I believe that it can be quelled if we’re willing to challenge it. A hundred years ago, the innate selfish drives in society meant that women, POC, LGBT+, disabled people, and many minorities were second class citizens and worse. But, because people were willing to challenge the institutionalised belief, we were able to reshape societal thinking and enact real change. The fight isn’t over for equality but it has definitely begun and I think we need to take the same way of thinking to tackle the climate crisis because the first step is to make the world listen up when we tell them there’s a problem.
Planet in Peril, combining the heartfelt voice of art alongside the strong message of science, represents the first step and I’m confident it will be among the first of many like it that will start to redirect the tide of the masses.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds