April is National Poetry Month!

A time when us shameless romantics and lovers of wordplay will get to enjoy a steadier-than-usual stream of poems coursing through our social media feeds and reading lists.  Likewise, Earth Day falls in April, and as it coincides with Spring, is often a time where lovers of this blue planet will begin tromping around outside more than in chillier months.  Although these two celebrations were no doubt instated for different reasons, their co-incidence is a wonderful statement on the intersection between poetry and environmentalism.

Sunset on the South River by Interfaith Partners for the ChesapeakeSome of the earliest known poetry touched on environmental and faith based themes.  Fragments attributed to Sappho, a lyric poet who lived between around 615 and 570 BC, often compare the beautiful features of humans to beautiful natural features, like blossoms and trees.  Ancient Sumerian poetry (which is thought to be some of the oldest written poetry) was often about or featured gods and animals.  Likewise, the Romantic poetry movement of the 1800's was heavily influenced by the concept of the sublime. Romantic poets such as William Wordsworth, John Keats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley portrayed the divinity and grandeur of landscapes through their works. 

Today, poetry continues to honor the earth through multiple forms.

Two distinct types of earth-centric poetry commonly practiced today are environmental poetry, sometimes referred to as ecopoetry or ecopoetics, and nature poetry. Ecopoetry is distinct from nature poetry in that it A) has an environmental message and B) includes elements of nature, but may not be solely focused on the landscape.  Conversely, nature poetry primarily focuses on natural elements and landscapes themselves, rather than the interplay between humans and the environment through an environmental message.  

Speaking Tree by Joy Harjo is an example of ecopoetry, exploring an empathetic connection between a woman and tree.  Grace by Wendell Berry is an example of nature poetry: it explores the "shining" woods, "[p]erfect in its rise and in its fall," focusing on the beauty of nature and how moving it is for the speaker. 

A commonality of the these two earth-centric types of poetry is their power in forging the human connection with nature.  To me, one beautiful aspect of poetry is that it helps us process and build our relationship with the natural world.  This National Poetry Month and Earth Month, I encourage you to get outside and try writing your own environmental or nature poetry (it doesn't have to rhyme - no rules allowed!).  Even and especially if you're not someone who considers themself a poet - maybe you'll surprise yourself or be moved by meditating on the importance of some natural place you love.

Looking for inspiration to get started on your own earth poem? Read on for an example of nature poetry by IPC staff and additional poems for further celebration of Earth Month and National Poetry Month.

Sunrise on Bachelor's Creek

 The insects have returned 

            and rise above her amber-stained

     morning waters.


Their humm becomes a part; 

                    with the heavy mist rising

                          heaven bound,

     greeting the new sun and 

          emerging fish lips.


           from the late-March spawn.


The spawned eat the spawning 

            and most mornings I want to jump

                 into the water and 

                                           become her. 


Because how beautiful must it be

         to be a body of water

                   who holds so much


Please enjoy these other poems for further celebration of National Poetry Month and Earth Month:

Mollie Rudow


Outreach Coordinator (Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, Worcester, Caroline, Talbot)