In September, like many others, I watched Sir David Attenborough’s new BBC documentary Extinction: The Facts. The documentary showed the devastation of the mass species extinction and climate crisis that we are living through now in heart-breaking detail. It moved me to do something constructive to increase awareness of this ecological breakdown.
I am a third year Biology student at Oxford University, and I’ve always loved writing wildlife poetry and creating artwork. So to do my little bit for nature I decided to put together an illustrated wildlife poetry collection, and to donate 50% of profits to the wildlife hospital Tiggywinkles to help their conservation efforts.
Rain before Rainbows is fundamentally a book about hope. The poem after which the collection is named was written during the coronavirus lockdown. It reflects the hope and cautious optimism I have for the future: that we will learn from our mistakes, reduce overexploitation, illegal poaching and habitat loss among other things, and live sustainably with the natural world.
The collection is prefaced by a poem I wrote when I was 8 years old called Where is the Sun? I grew up in North Yorkshire, with a keen interest in wildlife and the natural world gained from my parents. I have thus always been aware of the beauty of the natural world, but also know that nature is facing huge issues – such as pollution.
In another more recent poem, Shoes, I look at fast-fashion in conjunction with the recent wildfires in Australia and California. The poem opens and closes with “because I am too busy looking at them/ – the shoes.”, which is a nod to the amount of times people turn a blind-eye to environmental destruction, especially if it disrupts their daily routine, or what they want in life.
The book is divided into two parts: the first part “rain” is composed of five poems which illustrate the harsh reality of the difficulties facing the natural world – from plastic pollution, to habitat destruction, species loss, and noise pollution. Before the second part of the book, a poem Paper Flower, is placed – acting as an interlude and turning point for the mood of the collection. The second part “rainbows” is composed of twenty poems which are more optimistic – appreciating the natural world, slipping briefly into whimsical, fantasy poems such as Moon Hare and Circus, before finishing with Rain before Rainbows.
The poems represent a decade of writing poetry – from Leopard, written when I was 10, to others written more recently, like Urban Hares. This was a deliberate decision, to show that young children can be just as aware as adults about environmental issues.
Rain before Rainbows is an illustrated anthology, composed of biro drawings which aim to capture the subject’s likeness and character. The illustrations often feature the subject of the poem, such as A Charm, which describes a charm of Goldfinches feeding on teasels, and act as a different way of conveying the poem’s message.
I have loved every moment of creating Rain before Rainbows, and I hope that everyone who reads it enjoys it too. If people take just one message from this collection, I want it to be the belief that we can all make a positive difference to our world – even if it’s just a simple thing like picking up litter or using less plastic – and we can all help the natural world to recover. If everyone makes small changes, we can look forward to a brighter future.
Alicia has been an avid poetry writer since she was young, and won WWF’s My True Nature Poetry competition in 2011 with her poem about a Leopard.
After watching David Attenborough’s documentary Extinction: The Facts, she felt compelled to do something positive, and compiled the collection Rain before Rainbows.
50% of the profits from the poetry book will go directly to the wildlife hospital Tiggywinkles, to support their important work.
You can buy Rain before Rainbows here: https://aliciahaydenshop.bigcartel.com/