Songs of Innocence
There were many, many speakers and singers at President Biden’s inauguration ceremony, including Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez. But then 22-year-old Amanda Gorman stole the show reading her poem “The Hill We Climb.” People were impressed that a writer still in her early 20s could command such a big stage, and that her verse was so stirring. But in truth she’s an old pro: she published her first book of poems in 2015, the year she turned 17.
This week a British poet named Nadim Shamma-Sourgen will do Gorman one better, publishing his own first collection at the age of five—which is impressive enough. Guess what, though? Nadim was only four when he wrote it. The title is Take Off Your Brave: Poems Just for You.
Adults seem to like the open, heartfelt quality of Nadim’s verse, and the vividness with which he articulates an extremely young person’s point of view. But it’s not like Nadim writes about juice boxes or Legos. As his publisher told The Guardian, “The poems talk about such important feelings, like love and loneliness, and Nadim finds the perfect words. They are simple and inspirational and have a wisdom all of their own.”
O.K., but what do you think? Here’s an excerpt from Nadim’s poem “Baddies” (which is what British people call bad guys):
Baddies love their baddie friends
Even very baddie ones
Policemen might arrest them
But they’ll still have their love
Because nothing can make love disappear
Not anything …
And here’s an excerpt from Nadim’s “Take Off Your Brave”:
Take off our jackets.
Hang them up
Take our gloves off
Take our shoes off
Put them where
They’re supposed to go
You take off your brave feeling
Because there’s nothing
To be scared of in the house …
That last poem burst forth one day when Nadim’s mom asked him to list what he does when he gets home, and somehow he and she found a poem in it—his first, though maybe that sort of thing is bound to happen when, like Nadim, you have two parents who teach college literature. The book deal came about after a friend of his mom’s, an adult poet named Kate Clanchy, posted some of Nadim’s poems on Twitter, where they quickly drew attention and fans.
But just because most poets have to struggle and suffer for years and years before they find success, if they ever do—writing poetry is generally a tortured occupation—doesn’t mean Nadim’s path has been free of obstacles. For one thing, he’s had to work on his reading and writing. And when he recently appeared on a live TV show, the host had to remind him it’s best not to pick your nose in front of a camera.
Squirrel Takes the Cake
Laugh to Keep from Crying
According to Greta Thunberg, Generation Z’s Swedish environmental crusader, now and again all you can do in the face of climate change is have a laugh. Speaking to the British magazine Radio Times, Thunberg said that the one emoji she would use to encapsulate the fight against the ever worsening treatment of the planet is the laughing-and-crying face.
“You need to be able to laugh sometimes,” Thunberg said. “The climate crisis is actually hilarious, if you think of it. It’s just the absurdity of the situation.”
While the impending crisis is clearly no joke in the 18-year old’s eyes, some of the reactions to Thunberg’s efforts as an activist are worthy of an exasperated laugh or two. World leaders from the U.S. to Russia have ridiculed her, and she also feels that the many people who have embraced her did so only to advance their personal agendas.
“Whether it is by applauding me or taking selfies with me, or whether it is by calling me things, or criticizing me,” Thunberg said. “I mean, both these teams are using me for different purposes and in different ways, but they are still using me to gain popularity.”
Thunberg was speaking to Radio Times ahead of the release of the new documentary series Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World, which aired yesterday in honor of Earth Day. The series follows the young activist around the world as she visits regions impacted by climate change and meets with fellow climate leaders, such as Sir David Attenborough.
“Of course, I don’t have all the solutions” when it comes to climate change, Thunberg said. But she also underlined the importance of framing the problem correctly. “We need to think about: solutions to what? Solutions to the climate crisis, or solutions that allow us to go on like today? Because right now, we are looking for solutions that allow us to go on like today.”
Despite everything, Thunberg is optimistic about our future, and is all for cutting oneself a little slack once in a while. “If you’re doing everything you can, then you just need to take a step back and say, O.K., there’s nothing more I can do, so then you just have to laugh.”