Poetry and Nature have walked hand in hand in celebrating the beauty of our planet since ancient times. April being National Poetry month, and also Earth Month, we bring you a bit of beauty to enjoy from three of our favorite poets laureate.
America’s first Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman , best known for upstaging President Biden at his own inauguration, has created this beautiful poem about our only home, inspired by Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders’ iconic photo “Earthrise,” Click here to watch: Amanda Gorman’s “Earthrise“
Author of the The Hill We Climb (Viking) and The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough (Penmanship Books), Gorman became the first National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States in 2017. Previously the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles, she is the founder and executive director of One Pen One Page, an organization providing free creative writing programs for underserved youth. You can learn more about her here: The Amanda Gorman
by Joy Harjo
I had a beautiful dream I was dancing with a tree.
Some things on this earth are unspeakable:
Genealogy of the broken—
A shy wind threading leaves after a massacre,
Or the smell of coffee and no one there—
Some humans say trees are not sentient beings,
But they do not understand poetry—
Nor can they hear the singing of trees when they are fed by
Wind, or water music—
Or hear their cries of anguish when they are broken and bereft—
Now I am a woman longing to be a tree, planted in a moist, dark earth
Between sunrise and sunset—
I cannot walk through all realms—
I carry a yearning I cannot bear alone in the dark—
What shall I do with all this heartache?
The deepest-rooted dream of a tree is to walk
Even just a little ways, from the place next to the doorway—
To the edge of the river of life, and drink—
I have heard trees talking, long after the sun has gone down:
Imagine what would it be like to dance close together
In this land of water and knowledge. . .
To drink deep what is undrinkable.
Joy Harjo, of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation is 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, and a master in the healing ways of words and music. She has penned nine books of poetry, two memoirs, several plays and children’s books, and produced seven award-winning music albums. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Board of Directors Chair of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation. To learn more, click here: Joy Harjo.
Once there were women who read books in trees.
I’ve heard it from their own lips,
And I was one of them.
I lay back in the Y-branch of a dogwood tree,
sun in the green leaves, a rain of petals
on the grass beneath me.
Once women washed in the watershed rainfall
of streams that tumbled down mountain
and into the plains below.
I knew a woman who dug herself a well, another
who raised rabbits
and killed them clean,
skinned them as I might slip off the winter coat
I no longer need.
Once there were women who worked fields
in the hot sun and afterwards,
their work done, roamed the edges
where field met forest, where at sundown
the deer roused
after dozing for hours
in the chicory and Queen Anne’s lace.
I know one woman who spoke her poems aloud,
standing at the edge of a field
of tall grasses
so that the rabbits and the mice
and the red-tailed hawks
could hear words on the wind. And the wind
rose, and a thunderstorm broke—
she tells how lightning took down an oak
the way she’d take a lover.
Once there were women who fed themselves on roots,
who drank milk straight from the udders
of wild oxen,
who knew herbs and mushrooms,
simples and cures.
These days, if anyone thinks of these women at all,
it’s to dismiss them as primitive,
or pagan, or savage. . .
but I know how they held their bodies as they walked
their just once
on this earth. I know how they wept, and laughed,
how they loved.
Once there were salmon, meadow larks, herds of elk.
Once there were groves of oaks
to pray in.
Once there were avenues of plane trees in the cities.
Once there were words with wings.
Once, when thunderstorms billowed and broke,
the thick heat cleared out,
the air was
Once farm, once forest, once field. Once city,
bridge, and tower.
Once, words had roots that entered the deep earth
as a lover might enter a woman.
Once there were women who read books in trees.
“Now that the earth as we know it is in climate crisis, I am drawn, as are other poets, to write poems about endangered species, dramatic storms, famines, floods, plagues, cities sinking, forest fires. But when environmental grief thrums and stirs me, I’m not restricted to writing elegy, nor to writing of the future’s blighted earth on the way to or after the sixth extinction. The most valuable climate poems will also explore in language how to free ourselves from the illusion that we human beings are separate, rewriting our sense of what it means to see everything, including ourselves, as interrelated subjects (not objects) in a living flux and immediacy.”- from “Listening to the Thrush: Notes toward the Greening of Poetry in a Time of Global Climate Crisis,” The Georgia Review, Fall, 2020
The recipient of a pushcart prize, the Connecticut Book Award for Poetry and a finalist for the National book award for Poetry,Gibson has written twelve volumes of poetry and a memoir. She is professor Emerita at the University of Connecticut and has taught at universities throughout the East coast. On April 24, Gibson and White Memorial Conservation Center will offer a day of virtual poetry events “Poetry for a Greener World.” Gibson will give a talk: “Nature Poetry in a Time of Climate Crisis.” There will also be readings by poets from the new anthology Waking Up to the Earth: Connecticut Poets in a Time of Global Climate Crisis.
Register at www.whitememorialcc.org to observe via ZOOM. A link will be emailed to you the day before, or watch live on White Memorial’s Facebook Fan Page.
Join the Academy of American Poets and Honorary Event Co-Chairs Meryl Streep and Rose Styron for a first-ever virtual gala, celebrating the 25th anniversary of National Poetry Month. Each year during National Poetry Month, now in its 25th year, the Academy of American Poets presents a gala celebration of poetry’s important place in our culture, and its impact on the lives of readers and artists working in other disciplines. This year, for the first time, Poetry & the Creative Mind will be presented free and virtually. . Learn more and register here!
The Academy of American Poets Poets.org
Green Poetry AnthologyWaking Up to the Earth: Connecticut Poets in a Time of Global Climate Crisis is available through Ingram Book Company, Grayson Books, or amazon.com. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org