“A poem begins with a lump in the throat.” Robert Frost
Were you aware that April is National Poetry Month, a month-long celebration designed to increase the visibility of poetry and poets in our culture? As an organization that celebrates the intersection of art and nature, we wanted to offer a few ways for those interested to further explore nature poetry.
Orion is celebrating National Poetry Month a special curated selection of poems that will be updated daily. Visit their website daily to see their selections, or get poems delivered to you by following Orion on Twitter or Tumblr.
From one of our favorite poets:
This is My Letter to the World
By Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!
Emily Dickinson was an American poet who lived an introverted and reclusive life. Thought of as an eccentric, she was known for her penchant for white clothing and her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, even leave her room. Although a prolific private poet, fewer than a dozen of her nearly eighteen hundred poems were published during her lifetime.
Friends of Ryerson Woods is increasingly interested in exploring how nature and culture are linked. As such, we recommend Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry by Camille T. Dungy published by the University of Georgia Press in December 2009. Black Nature is the first anthology to focus on nature writing by African American poets, a genre that until now has not commonly been counted as one in which African American poets have participated. It features poets including the writers Harryette Mullen, Ed Roberson, Evie Shockley, Natasha Tretheway, Camille Dungy and Al Young.
Just as nature is too often defined as wilderness when, in fact, nature is everywhere we are, our nature poetry is too often defined by Anglo-American perspectives, even though poets of all backgrounds write about the living world. By creating an anthology of nature poetry by African American writers, poet and editor Dungy enlarges our understanding of the nexus between nature and culture, and introduces a “new way of thinking about nature writing and writing by black Americans.”— BOOKLIST, starred review
You might enjoy viewing this video from the Black Nature: A Symposium on the First Anthology of Nature Writing by African-American Poets at The Berkeley Institute of the Environment in 2010. They read from their work and participate in a discussion on the literary and environmental issues raised by the new anthology.
A closing poem in celebration of the trees that define our landscape here at Ryerson Woods.
By Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)
I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
“Trees” was originally published in Trees and Other Poems. Joyce Kilmer. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1914. Best known for this poem, Joyce Kilmer was killed in action during World War I while serving in France on July 30, 1918.