Poetry Inspired by Nature

Poetry Inspired by Nature

Cypress trees rising from the Ichetucknee River. Photo credit: Michele Leavitt

Nature has always inspired poetry, from early Chinese dynasties, around the globe to Ancient Greek epic poets and early Arabic poets.

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 Poetryedited 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.

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