Monday, April 22, 2013

Poetry A-Z: E is for Earthy

I swear I didn't plan this! Imagine my surprise when I realized that the letter E would fall on Earth Day. Talk about serendipitous! There are many ways this post could go, so while these books may not seem connected to each other, they nicely fit the word of the day and include some of my favorite books about nature and the history of the Earth.

EARTHY - of the nature of or consisting of earth or soil

The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination, with poems selected by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston, is a stunning collection of poetry and information. The book includes a CD where many of the selected poets read their own works. Included among the authors are William Blake, Joseph Bruchac, Emily Dickinson, T. S Eliot, Barbara Juster Esbensen, Douglas Florian, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, D. H. Lawrence, Myra Cohn Livingston, David, McCord, Eve Merriam, Lilian Moore, Ogden Nash, Mary Oliver, Carl Sandburg, Alice Schertle, Joyce Sidman, Walt Whitman, and Valerie Worth, and many more. Here's a bit from the introduction that will give you a sense of how this anthology was put together.
Like Darwin, anthologists are passionate collectors, but the specimens we collect are poems. However, the process of collection in both areas is similar. At first, we simply gathered together as many poems as we could find that fit the subject we have chosen for your book. Then we decided how the book would be organized and we sorted our poems into the various categories we had chosen. The next step was putting the poems into some sort of order within these divisions so that they related thematically to their immediate neighbors.
. . .
The poems in this book explore many of the roots and limbs of Darwin's Tree, the branching tree that shows the connections among all forms of life. For some of these poems, we have offered brief comments or pointed out links to other poems.
The books is divided into the sections named below. For each one you'll find a brief excerpt or description of the kinds of poems in that section.
  • Oh, Fields of Wonder - "Both poets and scientists wonder at and about the world."
  • The Sea is Our Mother - "The poems in this section recall life's watery origins as well as the Earth's own geological beginnings. "
  • Prehistoric Praise - Fossil poems
  • Think Like a Tree - "We wouldn't be here without plants."
  • Meditations of a Tortoise - "In both Iroquois and Hindu legends, the earth is supported on the back of a giant turtle."
  • Some Primal Termite - "Naturalists define fitness as the ability of a species to reproduce itself in the greatest numbers and to adapt to the widest range of environments. According to this definition, insects are the fittest of all living creatures."
  • Everything That Lives Wants to Fly - "Along with Archaeopteryx (the earliest known bird), Darwin's finches play a key role in evolutionary theory."
  • I Am the Family Face - Poems on family in all its forms
  • Hurt No Living Thing - "It is natural for species to go extinct, but the rate at which this is happening today is unprecedented."
Here is one of the poems. Can you guess which section it is found in?

The fickle bee believes it’s he
Who profits from the flower;
But as he drinks, the flower thinks
She has him in her power.

Her nectar is the reason
That she blooms, the bee is sure;
But flower knows her nectar
Is there merely for allure.

And as he leaves, the bee believes
He”ll sample someone new;
But flower knows that where he goes,
Her pollen’s going, too.

Poem ©Mary Ann Hoberman. All rights reserved.
Footnotes accompany many of the poems. These include explications of both the content and form of the poem. There is also a glossary of scientific and poetic terms, as well as a brief biography of the included poets.

Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Mark Herald, is a collection of poems that move through the year from spring to winter. Each seasonal section contains more than 12 poems and includes a mix of reflections and suggestions for how children can enjoy the world around them. A nice blend of science and poetry, the verses are easy to read and offer plenty of information. Here's a poem appropriate for our very late spring.

Cherry Blossoms 

Last week the twigs were just twigs,
bare and black and boring,
but now—blossoms!

At first there were only little patches
of pink petals,
but now—blossoms, blossoms!

In parks, on streets, in gardens --
pools of pink spread,
and now we're lost in blossoms, blossoms, blossoms!

Poem ©Nicola Davies. All rights reserved.

Nest, Nook, & Cranny, written by Susan Blackaby and illustrated by Jamie Hogan, is a collection of 22 poems that explore animals and the homes they make. Arranged by habitat (desert, grassland, shoreline, wetland, and woodland), the poems take a range of forms, including villanelle, triolet, cinquain, sonnet, and more. The book opens with these words in a section entitled Before You Begin.
habitat - the natural home of an animal or plant 
The poems in this collection are loosely arranged by habitat, but you will find that coyotes, buts, and birds (to name a few) don't give a hoot about labels. Thanks to accommodations or adaptations or both, some creatures can live anyplace. Keep that in mind when the boundaries blur.
My favorite poem from the book reminds me of a creature I stumbled upon more than once as a child while traipsing through the woods and fields around my house.

A doe will pick a thicket
As a place to place her fawn,
Its speckled hide well hidden
In the dappled forest lawn.
A bed safe in the shadows—
Mossy cushion, leafy crest—
A doe will pick a thicket
As a place to make a nest.

Poem ©Susan Blackaby. All rights reserved.

This book is complemented by a two-page section describing the habitats used to organize the poem, as well as a lengthy section of author notes about each poem, the inspiration for them, and information about the forms.

I hope you get outside today to enjoy Earth Day. If you get a chance, take one of these books with you and enjoy a bit of nature poetry as well.

That's it for E. See you tomorrow for some D inspired poetry ponderings.


  1. Thanks for sharing Earthy poetry today, Tricia. I adore TREE and NEST...I have not yet seen OUTSIDE YOUR WINDOW. It sounds great--love the poem you shared. Trotting off to put it on my tbr list. Happy Earth Day!

  2. The Tree That Time Built is FAB, fab, fab. That poem about cross-purposes could have dual meanings.