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.