Saturday, April 20, 2013

Poetry A-Z: G is for Geological

A box of rocks sits on the shelf in my office. It contains what's left of my father's rock collection. The big pieces, the polished geode and large amethyst, sit on my mantle at home. The smaller ones wait patiently for those days when I open the box to remember.

I had my own rock collection growing up. This was not your everyday "rocks from the side of the road" collection, but an honest-to-goodness collection of rocks and minerals purchased at rock shows, scavenged from the rock pile at Ward's Scientific, or presented by family and friends from faraway places. I still use these rocks in my teaching, and every so often add new ones.

Earth science has always been one of my favorite subjects to teach, but finding poetry inspired by this topic was not always easy to find.

GEOLOGICAL - of or pertaining to the scientific study of the origin, history, structure, and composition of the earth

Earthshake: Poems From the Ground Up, written by Lisa Westberg Peters and illustrated by Cathie Felstead, is a collection of twenty-two poems that introduces geologic concepts through metaphors and word play in a variety of poetic forms. The poems are accompanied by vibrant illustrations that combine brightly colored hues and collage. What I love most about the pieces in this book is the inventiveness with which sometimes difficult concepts are presented. Here are short excerpts from a few of my favorites.

Instructions for the Earth's Dishwasher
Please set the
continental plates
gently on the
continental shelves.
No jostling or scraping.

Please stack the
basin right side up.
No tilting or turning

Obituary for a Clam
Clam. Marine.
Age, 10 years.

Died 300 million years ago
in underwater landslide.
Native of the Tethys Sea.
Loving mother of 198 clams.

Recipe for Granite
Melt a chunk of continent.

Heat at a million degrees,
long enough for the world
to spin a trillion times,
long enough for the Milky Way
to make it partway to infinity.

Poems ©Lisa Westberg Paters. All rights reserved.

In addition to these gems you will find poems about sedimentary rock, continental drift, minerals, meteors, geysers and more. Three pages of endnotes provide additional information about the concepts in each poem. 

Volcano! Wakes Up, written by Lisa Westberg Peters and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, is a collection of poems that describe a day in the life of an imaginary Hawaiian volcano. Ferns, lava flow crickets, a small black road, and the volcano itself all speak in these poems. Here's how it opens.


I'm the baby.
I'm much smaller than my
big sister volcanoes. I'm a little sleepy
now, but when I wake up, watch out! I throw
nasty tantrums. It always works--I get the most attention!

Here's what the ferns have to say when they realize the volcano is awake.


Fire-maker's awake!
She's about to 
this caldera
a lake of fire and
lava. Ah, the
must be over.
Put away all the
But wait . . . it's
hot yet. It's 
not even warm
yet. What a 
delay on this
beautiful day. Hey,
everybody, let's 

Poems ©Lisa Westberg Paters. All rights reserved.

The back matter of the book describes Hawaiian volcanoes, ferns, lava flow crickets, the road and trail signs that direct visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and the best time to watch hot lava enter the ocean.

An Island Grows, written by Lola M. Schaefer and illustrated by Cathie Felstead, is book-length poem that describes how a volcanic island is formed It begins this way.

Deep, deep
beneath the sea . . .
Stone breaks.
Water quakes.
Magma glows.
Volcano blows.
Lava flows
and flows
and flows.

Poem ©Lola Schaefer. All rights reserved.

The rhyming text continues to describe how the lava builds up unit it breaks through the water's surface. Eventually seeds, plants, and animals, come to the newly formed island. Later, sailors and traders came, settlers stayed, and soon there exists a "Busy island in the sea, where only water used to be." The book concludes by coming full circle and discussing how the cycle starts from the beginning, where “Another island grows.” The last page of the book describes a bit more of the science of island formation.

While I haven't found many other poetry books that focus solely on earth science concepts, there are a few books of nature poetry that include some poems related to these topics. One of my favorites is Footprints on the Roof: Poems About the Earth, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Meilo So. Even though some of the poems in this volume are about the natural world, the vast majority deal with things like natural disasters, volcanoes, caves, fossils and other such topics. Here is a short excerpt from the poem entitled Islands.

Dad likes to talk
about islands--
how they sink
how they rise
How some are bred
by volcanoes
and others built from coral bones

Poem ©Marilyn Singer. All rights reserved.

That's it for G. See you tomorrow for some F inspired poetry ponderings.

1 comment:

  1. I am always amazed by what topics poems cover. These crack me up.