I feel guilty for not posting anything on Earth Day. It’s the one day that I should drop everything and write. This is a biodiversity site, after all. But on Saturday, I had gone hiking along a series of highland rolling mountains outside of Istanbul near a ski-resort in Kartepe. By the time Earth Day came along, I was still avoiding my computer. Sometimes all you can do is stick to old-fashioned books on Earth Day. To make up for it, I’d like to celebrate America’s National Poetry Month, instead. Even though I don’t technically live in the U.S., I still find its monthly causes for celebration endearing. April won’t end for another few days, so I haven’t missed the deadline, yet.
When we think about nature and poetry, the knee-jerk reaction is to think of the English Romantic poets such as Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Tennyson (some of which are described here). However, their sublime view of nature and lofty diction may no longer appeal to contemporary audiences. Our relationship to nature has become more complicated. Namely, plastic and chemical pollution, climate change and mass extinction leave us with the feeling that nature is under siege by contemporary society. And it’s a society we participate in, so we may feel a form of guilt or complicity if we care about the environment. Nature writers are shifting their perspectives. Contemporary poets are addressing these issues head on, as shown by the recent anthology, Big Energy Poets: Ecopoetry thinks Climate Change. From contemplating plastic pollution to questioning the body’s relationship to the earth, poets are not blinded by the dream for green pastures, they’re writing to process and feel through the quagmire we face.
And if you’re wondering what exactly “trophic cascade” means in scientific terms, this image gives a pretty good description:
And while native Americans are often revered for their own spiritual relationship to nature, Kumeyaay Tommy Pico writes poetry that challenges the noble savage stereotype. His book Nature Poem centers on Teebs, a native, queer poet who can’t bring himself to write a nature poem. His poetry collection, Junk, offers us the nature poetry of the present-day because it is infused with plastic trash, social media and pop culture references.
But if sitting down and reading a book of poetry isn’t your thing, consider checking out these Spoken Word nature poets who perform their work.
Finally, why not write your own nature poem? Though the deadline has passed, each year The Rialto sponsors the Nature and Place Poetry Competition. Now is a great time to start working on your entry for 2019.
Do you have a list of your own favorite nature books, poems or poets? Please share them in the comments!