A Poetics of Climate Change: Apocalyptic Rhetoric in Selected Poems from East Africa
This paper discusses the employment of fear eliciting images characteristic of environmental apocalypse as a means of influencing the attitude of audiences in regard to manifestations of climate change in selected poems from East Africa. The analysis draws on Stephen O’Leary and Greg Garrard’s understanding of comedy and tragedy as modes of thought applicable to apocalyptic stories. Following this thought, I analyse renditions of scenes of destruction in the poems to understand how harnessing emotions of fear and pity may be valuable in environmental discourse. I argue that far from enhancing the notion of an inescapable calamity towards which humans are fast careering, the emotions of fear and pity in the poems potentially enhance meaningful engagement with the ecological crisis, and promote culpability among audiences. I assert that reading apocalyptic representations as attempts to achieve rhetorical effects might be more beneficial in the context of environmental literary criticism than consideration of the truth value of apocalyptic projections. The article points out some of the ways in which the song mode of poetry may be supportive to this way of reading.