Out of Time? – Jennifer Wolfe

“Strong rhythm and rhyme make this short poem about the premature coming of spring – due to climate change – moving and poignant.”  – Professor Michael Jacobs

Why have the daffodils
flowered so soon,
it’s not March, nor April,
nor nearer to June;
this used to be winter,
there’s still a wolf-moon –
yet flowers are here
this February noon. 

A vaseful of aureate,
verdigris stem,
of quietude leaf
evanescence indemn
but hush – now it wilts,
with browned anadem,
conducting, bemused,
this odd Requiem. 

For all flowers die,
whether slumped on the hill
or dusting fine pollen
on the windowsill;
yet pollen untouched,
stamens brimming to spill
that soft golden grain
in harsh winter’s chill. 

A life out of cycle
blooms unhandled by
the bee, the wasp,
the brief butterfly –
how can it be that
it grows and will die
before the year’s birds
pour into the sky?

We asked our 2021 and 2020 Orwell Youth Fellows to interview our new 2022 winners and runners up. Below, 2021 winner Isabella Rew interviews Jennifer Wolfe about the imagery, structure and political nature of her poem ‘Out of Time?’. You can also read Isabella’s 2021 winning poem ‘Two For Joy’ here.

  1. There’s a delightful delicacy to all the imagery in your writing that speaks to a tender relationship between the speaker and nature. Is that a reflection of your own feelings and do you think there might be a special way our generation responds to the natural world?

 I like to think I have a pretty close relationship with nature; I spend time in it and enjoy appreciating what it has to offer. Our generation has an interesting connection to nature, one that is not necessarily as deep as it could be, for many reasons. Mass urbanisation, economic issues and dewilding to name a few: less time spent in nature causes a sort of disconnect from it, a lack of understanding of the natural world. Though, a more external perspective on nature can be experienced, one more objective and potentially able to come up with better solutions related to the climate crisis.

  1. Judge Professor Michael Jacobs pointed out your masterful rhyme and rhythm in this poem. You also have a very interesting split structure, almost like a call and response. Is there a deeper symbolism behind these choices?

With all the stanzas on one side, the poem appeared very linear in its structure, especially due to the short length of line. But that wasn’t the message I wanted to deliver – so I adopted a rather more fragmentary approach, forcing people to move their eyes across the page rather than simply scan downwards along a wall of text. This not only broke up the poem and supplied end focus to each stanza, but it also enhanced the idea of change and disruption.

  1. Someone who first reads this poem might be surprised to hear it described as political writing. Obviously it is a very powerful poem: what impressions do you hope a reader will take away from it?’

It’s meant to feel rather mournful in order to get its point across. If a reader feels sad and contemplative afterwards then it has served its purpose of raising awareness and hopefully encouraging introspection. Essentially, I want people to feel as I do when I see the effects of climate change. It is a serious topic that requires attention, and action.

Find out more about all our Orwell Youth Fellows here and buy their climate crisis zine, Axial Tilt here.

Enter the 2023 Orwell Youth Prize here.