Rewriting Songs of Nature + the Neighbourhood
In October, we began our inaugural reading circle, going Beyond Books, with Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass. Readers from across the neighbourhood and beyond have been collectively exploring themes of nature, care, intergenerational learning, gratitude, story, myths, regenerative economics, rituals, language, land, regeneration, gift economies and much more, as well as how ideas from the book can be applied in our everyday lives.
Throughout the book, Robin repeatedly mentions the essence of song when referring to the innate wisdom of nature:
“As a writer, scientist and carrier of Skywoman’s story, I sit at the feet of my elder teachers listening for their songs”
“Yes, I have learned the names of all the bushes, but I have yet to learn their songs. [As a university lecturer], I was teaching the names and ignoring the songs.”
After this Summer’s wonderful poetry workshop inspired by nature at The Big Lunch, we’ve invited Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan back to Edgbaston Reservoir in a different season, alongside Rachel Bromfield, our Department of Dreams Coordinator, to explore what it feels like to re-connect with the songs of nature.
As we bring this reading circle to a close, we invite you to you walk through the Reservoir, braiding new songs of nature and the neighbourhood, thinking about our personal and collective responsibilities towards our more-than-human relatives; to engage in intelligences beyond our own and to really ‘listen’ to the songs, spirits, movements, and teachings of nature. During the walk, we encourage neighbours to gather photographs and write down thoughts & inspirations that come up, as these will be used in the crafting session after the walk.
This workshop is part of our Neighbourhood Doughnut Deep Dives, going Beyond Books, and bringing ideas off the page and into practice to unlock new economic possibilities for the 21st century, as part of the Braiding Sweetgrass Reading Circle
About Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan
Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan is a writer, poet, speaker and educator born in Bradford and raised in Leeds. She is the author of the poetry collection, Postcolonial Banter (Verve Poetry Press, 2019), co-author of the anthology, A FLY GIRL’S GUIDE TO UNIVERSITY: Being a woman of colour at Cambridge and other institutions of power and elitism (Verve Poetry Press, 2019) and hosts the Breaking Binaries podcast. Most of Suhaiymah’s work grapples with questions of history, race and power – trying to interrogate mainstream narratives about Muslims, migrants, violence and more. Her new book, Tangled in Terror, from Pluto Press will be published in March 2022.
About Rachel Bromfield
Rachel is CIVIC SQUARE’s Department of Dreams Coordinator. She is a vocalist and has a keen interest in music, words, being creative and supporting others to dream and reimagine their work.
let us know if you are joining us
We have limited spaces for this workshop, so please do let us know if you would like to join us for this walk and workshop by filling in the form below and we can hold a space for you.
About Braiding Sweetgrass
This workshop is an open event connected to our neighbourhood reading circle which hopes to take a deep dive into the experiences, learnings and writings of Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge And The Teachings of Plants, published in 2013.
Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, a mother, and a woman, in Braiding Sweetgrass Robin Wall Kimmerer shows how other living beings — asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass — offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices.
This reading journey has been encompassing nourishing conversation, craft workshops, guest speakers and most importantly a chance for readers to share their own reflections, experiences and stories related to these themes. You can find out more here.
From exploring books and literature together to practical prototyping in our places we are crafting intentional spaces to learn together through neighbourhood learning infrastructure. Starting with Braiding Sweetgrass, this special journey precedes the launch of a global peer-to-peer learning programme with our partners Enrol Yourself to deep dive into Kate Raworth’s book Doughnut Economics together. You can find out more about the peer-to-peer learning programme here.
Inspiration from Braiding Sweetgrass:
“Many indigenous peoples share the understanding that we are each endowed a particular gift, a unique ability… a gift is also a responsibility. If the bird’s gift is song, then it has a responsibility to greet the day with music. It is the duty of the bird to sing and the rest of us receive the song as a gift… Asking what is our responsibility is perhaps also to ask, What is our gift? And how shall we use it?”
“I could have been painting a landscape or composing a cycle of songs. The exercise in finding the right distribution of trees feels like revising a poem… A writer who practices the art of forestry writes in trees.”
“The trees act not as individuals, but somehow as a collective… What happens to one happens to us all. We starve together or feast together. All flourishing is mutual”.