Apr 19, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: Celebrating Earth Day

Earth Day is this Monday, April 22, so today I am focusing on poetry that celebrates our lovely blue planet. 

In 1970, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson established Earth Day to promote conservation efforts and to make people more aware of the fragility of our natural environment. Today, Earth Day is celebrated by over 500 million people in 175 countries. Thank you, Senator Nelson!

There are thousands of beautiful poems about nature (many more than I could include here), but here are a few that I especially like, with a bit about the authors.
We’re all familiar with the poem Trees, by Joyce Kilmer (if not, scroll down to the bottom of my Poetry Page). But did you know that Kilmer was only 31 years old when he was killed in France during World War II? The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in western North Carolina is one of the few remaining old growth forests in the eastern U.S., and was dedicated in Kilmer's memory in 1936. Be sure to visit if you are ever in that area--hiking the forest's trails is an awe-inspiring experience! Although Trees remains Kilmer's best-known poem, there are many others worthy of our attention. Here is just one example:  

Mount Houvenkopf

by Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)                              

Serene he stands, with mist serenely crowned,
And draws a cloak of trees about his breast.
The thunder roars but cannot break his rest
And from his rugged face the tempests bound.
He does not heed the angry lightning's wound,
The raging blizzard is his harmless guest,
And human life is but a passing jest
To him who sees Time spin the years around.

But fragile souls, in skyey reaches find
High vantage-points and view him from afar.
How low he seems to the ascended mind,
How brief he seems where all things endless are;
This little playmate of the mighty wind
This young companion of an ancient star.

The Victorian British poet Christina Rossetti wrote, "If any one thing schooled me in the direction of poetry, it was perhaps the delightful idle liberty to prowl all alone about my grandfather's cottage-grounds some thirty miles from London." In her childhood ramblings she explored the intricacies of nature, big and small. In Caterpillar, Rossetti's watchful reflection is evident:
Caterpillar                                                                                                               by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry,
Take your walk
To the shady leaf, or stalk,
Or what not,
Which may be the chosen spot.
No toad spy you,
Hovering bird of prey pass by you;

Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.
William Cullen Bryant was one of the most celebrated nineteenth century American poets. Bryant grew up among the the rolling hills of western Massachusetts, and spent many long hours exploring his surroundings. This poem by Bryant is fairly long, but when I rediscovered it this week I was struck by its playful, celebratory mood. In The Gladness of Nature, Bryant captures the spirit of springtime, and paints a vivid picture with with his words:

The Gladness of Nature
by William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)

Is this a time to be cloudy and sad,
When our mother Nature laughs around;
When even the deep blue heavens look glad,
And gladness breathes from the blossoming ground?

There are notes of joy from the hang-bird and wren,
And the gossip of swallows through all the sky;
The ground-squirrel gaily chirps by his den,
And the wilding bee hums merrily by.

The clouds are at play in the azure space,
And their shadows at play on the bright green vale,
And here they stretch to the frolic chase,
And there they roll on the easy gale.

There's a dance of leaves in that aspen bower,
There's a titter of winds in that beechen tree,
There's a smile on the fruit, and a smile on the flower,
And a laugh from the brook that runs to the sea.

And look at the broad-faced sun, how he smiles
On the dewy earth that smiles in his ray,
On the leaping waters and gay young isles;
Ay, look, and he'll smile thy gloom away.

And finally, here is a poem I wrote that was inspired by a recent Carolina moon:

Crescent Moon

The moon dips low in the sky,                       
scooping up stars,
a silver sliver shining bright. 
 Here are a few more ways to celebrate National Poetry Month:
In honor of Earth Day, write a poem inspired by nature.

Take some time to read about your favorite poet. What were his or her influences? What can you learn that you didn’t know?

Share a favorite spiritual poem with your minister, priest, rabbi, etc., or write your own!

Even if you are an adult with no kids around, find a good book of children’s poetry and read it. There are MANY great kids’ poetry books out there, and you’re missing out if you don’t check them out!

Write your favorite living poet a letter. (And don't forget to send it!)


  1. I have always loved that Christina Rossetti poem. Now I can add your "silver sliver" poem to my list of favorites!

    1. Thank you so much! Christina Rossetti has always been one of my favorite Victorian poets--she has such a wit about her. I am glad you liked my poem! = )

  2. Happy Earth Day and Poetry Month!

    1. Thanks, Mary Lee! I hope you have a very happy Earth Day!

  3. What a wonderful post, Becky. The poetry took me away...

    1. Thank you, Mirka! I am glad you liked the poems--there is so much great poetry out there, it was hard to choose my favorites!


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