Verse writing, like other writing, can greatly benefit from the poetry we read. An overview of the evolution of the Western tradition in nature poetry might be a good place to start getting to know existing nature poems and poets, along with what it’s all about.
Featured on the Academy of American Poets‘ list of notable nature poems, English writer Thomas Hardy’s poem “The Darkling Thrush” serves as a good example for its formal meter and rhyme, gradual conceptual revelation, and descriptive beauty.
As perhaps an antidote to the horrors associated with nature’s dangers, recalled to us by Shark Week and SharkFest on TV this week, Hardy’s poem offers an infusion of hope and tranquillity.
The first two stanzas establish the atmosphere of the scene. Here is the second half of stanza 1:
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky Like strings of broken lyres, And all mankind that haunted nigh Had sought their household fires.
The iambic meter creates rhythm with alternating lines of tetrameter (4 iambs, or beats of one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable) and trimeter (3 iambs), the use of simile in the second line, and the selective word choice of verbs like “scored” and “haunted” exemplify some of this poem’s treasures. Read on for more.
Exact end rhyme in a traditional ABAB pattern adds to the lyrical effect of the rhythm. The journey of the poem portrayed is one of dwelling in darkness and being surprised by a sudden “light” of sorts. The animal, a bird, serves as the source of that light.
Famous poems can inspire, are useful models to imitate, and are worth reading for the sheer pleasure of it. There are so many options for subject, form, and style with nature poetry, as with many types of writing, that the number of different accepted approaches has greatly increased over time.
Whether you choose a formal or informal style, rhymed or free verse, animals or elements as your nature subjects, you too have open access to writing nature poetry for yourself and others.
Take advantage of the outdoors and the beauty of the seasons, bring along a pen and paper, observe what comes, and try your hand at some nature verse. Celebrate your world.
The famous nature poetry series (famous poetry, not so much the series–yet)
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 1: Sun Spots – collection of lines from poems in the sun
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 1a: “The Sunlight on the Garden” by Louis MacNeice
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 2: Elizabeth Bishop – featuring fish and moose
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 3: Wordsworth’s Daffodils – compare to Ammons (8)
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 4: Promise of a Fruitful Plath – “Blackberrying”
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 5: Of Mice, Men and Rabbie Burns – “To a Mouse”
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 6: Hugh MacDiarmid in Scots – “The Eemis Stane”
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 6–Oh, NOW I Get It!: Hugh MacDiarmid in Scots
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 7: Black Legacies – on Black and African American poetry, featuring an excerpt of “Blessing the Animals” by Yusef Komunyakaa
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 8: “Corsons Inlet” by A. R. Ammons – compare to Wordsworth (3)
Also, if you enjoy writing for the birds, this blog has the goods.
- Poem “Hawk Side” Wins Contest – an original poem on the red-tailed hawk
- Wild Verses: Bits of Nature Poetry, 8 of 10 – starlings and a canine
- Five-Phrase Friday (12): Call It Bird Song – on the phonetics of bird calls
- Five-Phrase Friday (23): Cool Creatures – a bird of paradise, among others
- Five-Phrase Friday (26): The Poet’s Paradox – reference to poems about birds
- Backyard Brief: Mystery Bird Unveiled – identifying what I thought was a sparrow
- Backyard Brief: The Yellow Eye – Dickinson meets a special winter goldfinch
- Backyard Brief: What’s New – new friends make their first visits to our feeder
- Backyard Brief: Little White King – the white-crowned sparrow
- Backyard Brief: The Front Porch & Backyard Brief: Great Blue Birthday – blue heron
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 8: “Corsons Inlet” by A. R. Ammons – shorebirds jab
- Buddha, bird – an original poem – a pondering with links to some answers