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Nantucket Ecopoet Distills Science into Verse


Poet Len Germinara is resident naturalist and education coordinator at the Nantucket Field Station, and co-host of Spoken Word Nantucket. He teaches ecopoetry to U Mass Boston students who come to the Field Station, and to participants in his Junior Rangers program. He also blogs at Tower of Babel.

Which came first – your love of nature, or your love of poetry?

I would have to say poetry was first. I felt compelled to express myself from an early age (12 or 13) through the written word. Poetry captured the music and the dance that I felt welling up in me.

Poets have always drawn inspiration from the natural world. How is eco-poetry different?

For me it’s all about the perspective, you write what you see and slant the view based on feeling. In the course I taught on eco-poetics I asked my students to write about the death of nature. Not a very inspirational way of writing poetry but it does ask you to express your emotions in a very visceral way.

What is your method for writing poems?

I write lyric free verse. I begin by writing each morning after I wake, putting as much down on paper of the dreams from the previous night as possible. From that rock I begin the process of chipping away all but the needed for the work, much as a sculptor creates a statue.

You and your wife, Sara Oktay, work together at the Nantucket Field Station and have co-edited a book of poetry. How did you meet?

We met on a street corner in Brockton, MA.

I worked as a crossing guard for grade school students, Sarah used to pass me each morning as she walked to catch a commuter train to Boston. We would often exchange “good mornings” as she passed on her way to work. One day, shortly before Christmas, she stopped and proffered a bag of homemade sugar cookies to me, which really took me by surprise. In response I fumbled for a reply, remembered I had some flyers for a poetry reading I hosted in Bridgewater and handed her one with an invitation to stop by so we could chat at length. She did and we’ve been together pretty much from that point on.

If you could pick anyplace to live – other than Nantucket – where would it be?

Sarah has some land in Missouri on the Elk River, we hope to retire there. We’re both looking forward to that day. You might say that’s the “dream photo” on our refrigerator.

Your latest book is entitled "Veil of Particulates." What is the significance of that name?

The spectacular colors that you see here on Nantucket at sunrise/sunset are at face value nothing short of extraordinary however, the colors associated are due in large part because of pollutants in the atmosphere. From the moment I first read the poem I knew it would be the title poem.

Could you leave us with a poem?

How to
by Len Germinara
Give yourself permission
Open the gates
Let the words out
Choose one
A way to
hold the place
the world
Musical delight
derived by naming a thing
Bring the world inside you
From the slant
From your dreams
To the page
Loud and clear
A contract you make
In the world
Of imagination
Create a safe space
Where you see a Sycamore
know what it is

write it.

Alecia Orsini is an award winning independent filmmaker and multi-media professional. She joined the team at WCAI in March of 2012 as a part time host. She became the Special Projects Assistant for Development department, where she coordinated events, volunteers and managed member engagement. As the Development Associate she continues to bring more meaningful connections to WCAI's members, fostering donor support of the station. Alecia also continues to fill in as host for Weekend Edition and All Things Considered.