Creating Nature Poetry
I touched briefly in another article on how I was an outdoor-based teacher. (If you’re interested, the article is about using hiking to deal with anxiety, so give it a read!) In this article, I’m going to dive into a little more depth on one facet of my outdoor lessons. Get out your journals, notebooks, and pens, because today we’re going to write a nature poetry.
This is part 1 of a multipart article. If you’re looking for the forms of poetry we’re working with today, click here. If you’re looking for something a little more technical or advanced, try my article on writing villanelles.
Onto the poetry!
Yes, poetry. Despite popular opinion, poetry does not require a beret and a turtleneck sweater. You don’t have to sit around in a coffee shop snapping your fingers when someone at the mic says something obscure or angry. An alternative lifestyle or living a life of poverty is not necessary. Poetry is for everyone. Nature poetry is a testament to that fact.
When I taught creative writing, this method was one of my favorites. While it’s great for kids, everyone can work with this method to create something wonderful. It’s the type of activity that’s easy on the mind and soul, and is great for overcoming anxiety. Use it with hiking for a stress-blasting, depression-obliterating exercise.
And the best part- what you create doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. It just has to sing to your soul.
- Pen/pencil/crayon/charred stick. You know, something to make your mark.
- Paper. I suggest a dedicated notebook or journal because they’re easier to work with.
- Time. It doesn’t require a huge time investment, but be ready to sit a bit.
- Nature. Even if you don’t have the first two and are relying on memory, this point is necessary.
First things first, nature poetry requires nature, so get out there! Go for a hike, and find a quiet place to stop. It doesn’t have to have a great view (it helps), but it should be immersive. Avoid any nearby highways or heavily-trafficked trails. This doesn’t have to be solo. In fact, sometimes a session like this is great for groups to share your creations.
When you’ve reached that comfortable spot, sit down, take out our writing materials, and observe.
Observation calms the mind. Take a good 10 minutes or so in quiet observation. Let the world wash out the thoughts buzzing around in your head. What you really need to do is focus on one thing- a tree, a rock, how you’re breathing. Hell, focus on the toe of your boot if you want. The point is to clear out the cobwebs and soak in all the details of that one thing. Don’t time it, write anything, or tell yourself, “we’re only doing nature poetry today.”
When you feel it…write!
Take the next 20-30 minutes and just write. Describe the object you focused on, write down how you feel about it, describe what’s around that thing, the colors, the motion, whatever strikes your fancy. Dump everything that pops into your head onto the paper.
This is called stream of consciousness writing. The idea was to steer it towards that one nature “thing,” but if it wanders away it’s not a big deal.
Sometimes you don’t get words. That’s also fine. Sketch if you need to, just keep it going and don’t stop. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, sentence-length, or even if it makes sense. Just don’t stop.
When you do stop (it could be less than or more than the prescribed time), you’re ready for crafting.
If you’re doing your crafting away from your observation, it’s helpful to take a picture of what you were focusing on. While it should be in your journal, and you’re likely to wander away from exactly what you saw (or find more poetic ways of saying it), having an image to refer back to never hurts.
If you’ve worked uninterrupted, you should have a pile of workable ideas.
BUT, and this is IMPORTANT: You do not have to craft right now. If you want, pack up your writing materials, have a snack, and hit the trail. Crafting should be done when you are comfortable, and it can take time. Trying to bang out a poem before you leave can be frustrating for anyone not used to crafting poetry. Maybe the best thing for you is to read over what you wrote and then mull over it on the trail. I’ve done this, and I’ve often found myself coming up with even better lines while I walk.
When you’re ready, re-read what you wrote (or sketched) and underline or circle anything that strikes you as powerful. You may surprise yourself with what you wrote because it may not sound like you. Don’t worry, it is you, just the you that’s uninhibited. You may even notice that you wrote nothing powerful, and that’s okay, too. Sometimes our heads are so full of things that we just need a little solitude and brain-dumping.
If that’s you, don’t worry about it. Still scan for workable ideas, work with them, or think about them while you walk. The line that brings society to its knees may be in there somewhere. You just may need something a little bigger than a shovel to dig it out.
Flip to a new page or draw a line across the page you stopped on, and then copy down your powerful lines. If you sketched, describe the sketch or re-sketch (or clean up what you did…it’s your creation). Make any notes about those powerful lines as well.
From here, we can go a number of directions. There are an infinite number of poem types, and “nature” is poetry’s most used subject. There is no “right” or “wrong” in poetry, just poorly-executed. So don’t worry about getting it right, as it’s a discipline like any other. It requires practice.
If you need more guidance, here is a link to an example of how I do it. It’s not “required,” but it does give insight into how I go about crafting two types of poems.
Want more? Here is a list resources to help you write your own nature poetry. Some of them are all about form, some of them are all about devices. Give them a look when you’re ready to take your nature poetry to the next level!
- List of 100 Poetic Forms for Poets – Writer’s Digest
- A Beginner’s Guide to the Different Types of Poems – Book Riot
- Glossary of Poetic Terms – Academy of American Poets
- Nine Different Types of Poems (for kids) – Penguin
- 55 Types of Poetry Forms – Poem of Quotes
- The 20 Poetic Devices You Must Know – PrepScholar
- Elements of Poetry – Literacy Ideas