If you’ve ever been tempted to write a poem about your favorite landscape, the seashore or the rites of Spring, now’s the time to do it. April is National Poetry Month, so grab a pen and paper, find your favorite outdoor perch and start scribbling.
If you need inspiration, review the works of these five American poets who wrote about nature and used the natural world to help clarify daily life while exploring some of the more complicated aspects of society.
Emily Dickinson – Emily Dickinson lived in Amherst, Massachusetts in the late 19th century. Famously introverted and considered an eccentric by her neighbors, she spent much of her time in her bedroom, where she wrote nearly 1,800 poems during her lifetime. Though she often touched onthemes of death and immortality, she also had a keen understanding of nature, which she may have observed from her bedroom window.
One of her most charming poems is called “A Bird Came Down the Walk”:
“A bird came down the walk:
He did not know I saw;
He bit an angle-worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw”
Here’s the complete poem.
She also wrote “A Light Exists in Spring.” Here’s the opening stanza:
“A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period –
When March is scarcely here…”
Here is the complete poem.
Robert Frost – This famous American poet won four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry. He took his inspiration from early 1900s rural life in New England. Though set in nature, his poems often focused on importantsocial and philosophical issues. You’ll probably know him best for “The Road Not Taken,” but don’t overlook “Mending Wall,” from whence comes the famous line, “Good fences make good neighbors.” It starts…
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast…
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows…”
Read the complete poem here.
Gary Snyder – Gary Snyder is an essayist, lecturer, environmental activist and yes, poet. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, he’s been described as the “poet laureate of Deep Ecology” as well as a writer associated with San Francisco’s Beat Generation. He’s a master at using natural imagery to convey universal truths. You’ll find references to mountains, volcanoes, the Arctic, flora and fauna in his stanzas, and in the books for which he became well known, such as “Turtle Island.”
Enjoy “Pine Tree Tops:”
“In the blue night
frost haze, the sky glows
with the moon
pine tree tops
bend snow-blue, fade
into sky, frost, starlight.
The creak of boots.
Rabbit tracks, deer tracks,
What do we know.”
Mary Oliver – A winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, Mary Oliver was born in the Midwest in 1945. Shebegan writing poetry and later moved to Massachusetts, which servesas her home base while she writes, teaches and leads workshops. Her poetry celebrates the natural world, beauty, silence, love and the spirit. She’s published many books, including “Wild Geese,” which contains a poem by the same name. Here’s an excerpt:
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves…”
You can listen to Mary Oliver read the entire poem here.
Ralph Waldo Emerson – Philosopher, Transcendentalist, essayist and poet:Ralph Waldo Emerson was another poet born in Massachusetts, though in 1803. His most famous essay was on “Self-Reliance.” He titled his first book Nature, which expressed his belief that everything in the world is a microcosm of the universe.
Here’s an excerpt from a beautiful, moving poem simply titled, “Nature.”
Easily to shed the snow,
And the untaught Spring is wise
In cowslips and anemones.
Nature, hating art and pains,
Baulks and baffles plotting brains;
Casualty and Surprise
Are the apples of her eyes;
But she dearly loves the poor,
And, by marvel of her own,
Strikes the loud pretender down.”
You can see a list of more Nature poems dating back to Virgil in 37 BCE and including the Japanese poet Basho, at Poets.org.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.
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5 Nature Poets to Enjoy During National Poetry Month