James Thornton, whose poem ‘Library’ is published in the second issue of Lucent Dreaming, is a poet, writer, ecolawyer and Zen priest. His first collection of poems, The Feynman Challenge, appeared in 2017. He has been writing poems since he was about 14. Born in New York, he is a citizen of Ireland as well as the USA. James is also the founding CEO of the global environmental group ClientEarth, which uses law to protect planet and people. His most recent work of non-fiction, Client Earth, co-authored with husband Martin Goodman, won the Judge’s Category, Business Book of the Year Award 2018. He lives with Martin in London and the French Pyrenees.
What inspired your piece, ‘Library’?
The poem records a dream. The memory was clear and the poem tries to capture the images and feeling of the dream. The star of the poem, other than the library itself, is an eagle. I love everything about birds, including that they are dinosaurs. They are not just descended from dinosaurs. They are dinosaurs.
How did it find its way to Lucent Dreaming?
My husband Martin Goodman is a writer and professor of creative writing. He pointed me to Lucent Dreaming.
What does writing mean to you?
Writing means life. I need to do it. These days I mostly write poetry, which has been a kind medium to work in all my life. I also write fiction and non-fiction. But I am so busy at this point running an environmental organisation called ClientEarth, that poetry is the writing I’m called to. Poetry requires intense concentration for short bursts of time, in the morning, at night, on an airplane, in a hotel room, which is more congenial to my other demands than say a novel would be.
What writing/creative projects are you currently working on?
A couple of volumes of poems. The next is ‘Notes from a Mountain Village’, and will come out next year. On my holiday this summer I was drawn into writing prose poems for the first time in a long time, and they are flowing.
What are you most excited about right now and for the future?
In my writing, I am looking at a new idea for a very long poem about our relationship with the environment, which explores myth and makes it real now. This poem is slowly taking shape and I expect it to take years. While the collections of poetry grow poem by poem, and I have a number of collections on the go and growing in addition to the two I mentioned above, it is also reassuring to know there is a large work growing slowly in the basement of my mind.
My environmental work is about making the future safe for people. Climate change, pollution, loss of species, growing populations, these are all coming together into a perfect storm later in this century that threatens the fabric of civilisation. I use law to protect people and nature so we can give civilisation a chance. The exciting news is that we know what we need to do to build a great future. We need to get on and do it. Trying to make that happen is my passion. A lot of my writing is inspired by this passion of course as well.
My environmental work is tough and often adversarial. The writing is nurturing time that salves my spirit and gives me the strength to return to the campaigning.
How and where do you find inspiration to write?
Moments come when a space of potential meaning opens to explore. Often after I’ve been concentrating on an idea or an image for some time or sitting open in meditation. A thought, feeling or perception arises and offers an opening. Entering this space, I wait for expression to come, without yet knowing what needs saying. Then the work emerges in dialogue with a gently charged field of emptiness. Working patiently to render the expression adequate to the inspiration, it takes endless revision until one day you go back and know there are no more sharp edges to polish off.
What advice would you give those who want to do what you do?
To write poetry, read a lot of it, starting with the giants. Then write a lot, and revise endlessly. Let yourself flow onto the paper, then be your own toughest critic. Enjoy the game of originality and the game of critique. Over time you will learn to write like yourself.
When it comes to the environment, learn about your own ecological footprint. Study what you can do to enter into harmony with nature. Bring this into your work and relationships. Make it the heart of your creative work. See what the Earth is asking of you. Whatever your role in life, as poet, student, parent, novelist, CEO or politician, you can use your creativity for the planet. Demand that politicians clean the air and stop climate change. Vote for the ones who will.
Where can people see more of you and your work?
My recent poems on environment, The Feynman Challenge, is on Amazon. My non-fiction book about working for people and planet, written with Martin, is called Client Earth, and it’s on Amazon too.
Lucent Dreaming is an independent creative writing magazine publishing beautiful, imaginative and surreal short stories, poetry and artwork from emerging authors and artists worldwide. Our aim is to encourage creativity and to help writers reach publication! Subscribe to Lucent Dreaming now, support us on Patreon and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.