Poet Catherine Pierce Describes the Creative Process in Crafting Anthropocene Pastoral

By Peterson Toscano

What does it take to create a poetic masterpiece that is also able to express the complex emotions we feel around climate change? Poet Catherine Pierce describes her process crafting her moving poem, Anthropocene Pastoral.

This Art House segment is heavily influenced by the podcast Song Exploder, where musicians unpack a song and talk about almost every aspect of it, as well as their creative process. In this podcast, Pierce does something similar with Anthropocene Pastoral, which first appeared in the American Poetry Review.

Inspired by the California Super Bloom of 2017, Pierce captures the strangeness of living in a world that is rapidly and dangerously changing, but at the same time can be unseasonably pleasant and beautiful.

She opens the poem with the line, “In the beginning, the ending was beautiful.”

In our conversation, she reveals the many choices she made to create the haunting mood of the poem, and its lush landscape filled with a riot of images, animals, and life. She explains some of the techniques and devices she uses to construct the poem. Then she reads the poem for us.

You can read more of Catherine Pierce’s climate change-themed poems online including High Dangerous and Planet. Pierce’s last book of poetry, The Tornado is the World is about an EF-4 tornado/extreme weather event. The filmmaker Isaac Ravishankara produced a beautiful short film out of one of the poems in the collection The Mother Warns the Tornado.

Catherine Pierce is co-director of the Writing Program at Mississippi State University, and the author of the award winning collection of poetry Famous Last Words. She is working on a new book of poetry, Danger Days, which continues her exploration of climate change.

Coming up next month, a group of circus artists hop on a ship to engage the public in a performance that defies gravity and provides wisdom and guidance in a time of climate change.

If you like what you hear, you can listen to full episodes of Citizens’ Climate Radio on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, Podbean, Northern Spirit Radio, Google Play, PlayerFM, and TuneIn Radio. Also, feel free to connect with other listeners, suggest program ideas, and respond to programs in the Citizens’ Climate Radio Facebook group or on Twitter at @CitizensCRadio.

(Photo by Megan Bean/Mississippi State University.)

This article is part of The Art House series.


As host of Citizens’ Climate Radio, Peterson Toscano regularly features artists who address climate change in their work. The Art House section of his program includes singer/songwriters, visual artists, comics, creative writers, and playwrights. Through a collaboration with Artists and Climate Change and Citizens’ Climate Education, each month Peterson reissues The Art House for this blog. If you have an idea for The Art House, contact Peterson: radio @ citizensclimatelobby.org


Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

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