Area poets embark for Cayman Islands writing trip



Staff Writer
Published: 4/14/2023 5:15:04 PM

Ten poets from Northfield-based project Writing the Land will immerse themselves in the Cayman Islands this weekend, embarking on a week’s worth of conservationist activism.

The volunteer writers will be paying their own way to visit Cayman Brac and write poetry inspired by the area for publication in an upcoming anthology. NatureCulture, which oversees Writing the Land, hopes members of the community donate to sponsor each poet. The money each poet accumulates will be put toward a piece of protected land from Coast to Bluff Recreational Access and Conservation (CBRAC), a registered Caymanian nonprofit that “purchases imperiled land on Cayman Brac to conserve as natural habitat and for sustainable public access,” according to a CBRAC announcement.

“CBRAC is inspired to be collaborating with Writing the Land on this crucial global goal to protect 30% of wild spaces by the year 2030,” Tristan Relly, director and co-founder of Coast to Bluff Recreational Access and Conservation, said in the project announcement. “This is key to humanity’s long-term success and quality of life. ... We are genuinely touched that Writing the Land has chosen to highlight Cayman Brac on their poets’ retreat and are excited to share what nature here has to offer the creative community.”

The poets will spend April 15-22 on the 14-mile British Caribbean territory.

“Cayman Brac is home to many unique endemic species such as the Rock Iguana,” the project announcement explains. “Like all of the Caribbean, this tiny island, with its spectacular limestone cliffs and sandy beaches, is under the dual threat of climate change and over-development, with only 6% protected.”

Poets embarking on the trip cited a pre-existing affinity for nature as motivation for their participation.

“As I closely observe what happens in nature, I meditate on what resonates with me personally and I use it to jumpstart my creative expression,” said Hollee Freeman, a Richmond, Virginia resident and career educator who curates nature-based programming for youth and adult students. “I look at the overall gestalt first, but then I narrow it down to very specific items and experiences that sort of capture my soul.”

Taking in the land could entail observing how the rocks connect to the flora and fauna, or how these aspects of nature relate to human beings, Freeman continued, detailing her thought process.

“Going to Cayman Brac, the first thing is going to be our observations and our reactions to where we see,” said poet Mary Brancaccio, a South Orange, New Jersey resident and newly retired educator. “The next thing is going to be to learn a lot. … We want to make sure we understand the lands that we’re writing about.”

“I think the water element is going to be the most impactful element for me,” Freeman added. “Water carries messages,” she elaborated, explaining that she hopes to feel a connection to the marine life and the stories of the first people who came to the land by sea.

According to organizers, CBRAC virtually divides each parcel into “affordable chunks” that sponsors can name. Chunks range from 66 to 147 square feet.

“Grids of land start at $350, and the project is ready to protect as much land as people are inspired to sponsor,” the announcement details. “However, if that looks steep, you can help crowdsource one. Imagine a piece of land in the Cayman Islands conserved in the name of your book group, your Girl Scout troop or in memory of someone who loved the beach.”

Additionally, each grid square comes with an inventory of plant and animal species, as well as an estimate of its biodiversity and ecosystem resources.

“You will know just what you are saving in pictures and numbers,” the announcement reads.

Writing the Land will also be sending sponsors a signed copy of the poem written by the poet they sponsored. Those who sponsor an entire grid will receive a copy of the anthology that contains their chapter. A full-color book will be released in early 2025, according to the Writing the Land website.

Those interested in sponsoring a grid can do so at Those looking to join the crowdfunding campaign can do so at

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or


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