Poetry Inspired by Nature
In Western literature, the Romantics brought nature poetry to prominence in the early nineteenth century with poems like Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind,” Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale,” and Wordsworth’s “I wandered lonely as a cloud. . .”
Nature continues to inspire poets in the 21st century. One of my favorite contemporary anthologies of nature poetry is Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, edited by Camille Dungy.
I’m fortunate to have two dogs who get me out into the North Florida woods almost every morning, and before they came into my life, there were other dogs who got me out into the woods in other parts of the country. Here’s a poem inspired by a northern New England forest, originally published here.
From the Hemlock Trenches
Dear hemlocks, I sit writing your names
on paper soon to be sent back to the pulp mills.
Last night’s condensation froze. The element
of ice and the element of morning sun
meet in your needles’ interstices,
where the invasives will feed.
I sit writing the dream out
of ice, asking if I may go
with it, back into the air.
The forest has changed, meaning it has changed me.
In trenches between the oldest trees,
vernal pools collect the liminal beings.
Do not stir the broth, I hear, and then
the jay call, song sparrow notes,
staccato pileated tapping, all
rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed.
None of us can do without practice.
We come to the oldest grief each spring:
some have not survived. Sacrifice equals
the hope it will release, plus
the weight of carnage.
I sit writing the dream
of sugar flowing up the tale of light.
At every pool, one of us is drinking.