This is a fascinating and wide ranging conversation between Steven Matthews and Naomi Wolf, about the importance of poetry in these times of climate crisis.
The meeting with Naomi Wolf came about in the wake of a previous recorded talk Steven had with her a few years ago, which had received interest in the US. The opportunity this time derived from recent poems that he has been working on, subsequent to the work that went into the On Magnetism book published by Two Rivers Press in 2017. These new poems arise partly from a residency in 2016 at Oxford Natural History Museum, but also from more recent commissions.
The theme, therefore, was the Environmental Emergency, but more particularly the role that poetry might play in raising awareness of the situation, the loss of species, and the climatic alterations we are all suffering. The interview involves readings from recent work about that loss, its consequences – but also a discussion of the traditional roles that poetry has taken from Classical times in response to natural disaster. In the course of talk about a new translation of passages from Ovid by Steven Matthews, for instance, there is consideration of the ways that human transgression resulted in environmental cataclysm in the Metamorphoses. Poetry is both reporting on events, and forewarning about their consequences. Towards the end of the discussion in the interview, there is broader consideration of the origins of Steven’s poetry, of technique (in fact a running theme throughout), and of the urgency for poetry to be heard amidst the cacophonies of modern life.