September’s Poems

So having established what nature writing is, I wanted to do some of my own.  I’ve been gathering prompts and ideas for a few weeks and have decided to focus mostly on poetry.  As such, I’ve read a number of nature poems and decided on a handful to look at more closely:

I’ve chosen poems from a range of dates since the Romanticism era so that I can consider a range of styles and contents.  I don’t intend to write long critques of these poems but in order to help me consider them more careful, I have written down some thoughts.

Derry Derry Down, Seamus Heaney

I love the use of syllables in this poem. We have the one syllable rhyming words – lush, blush, bush – which are interspersed with words which linger on the tongue a little longer – gooseberry, unforbidden. This primal, lustful part contrasts with the fairytale-esque depiction in the remainder of the poem; storybook, sleeping beauty.

All Nature Has a Feeling, John Clare

All nature has a feeling: woods, fields, brooks
Are life eternal: and in silence they
Speak happiness beyond the reach of books;
There’s nothing mortal in them; their decay
Is the green life of change; to pass away
And come again in blooms revivified.
Its birth was heaven, eternal it its stay,
And with the sun and moon shall still abide
Beneath their day and night and heaven wide.

Apparently this is quite a popular funeral poem… I haven’t yet found a date for the poem but Clare was alive between 1793-1864 and for context William Wordsworth was born in 1770 and died in 1850. The poem echoes the themes from The Tables Turned, opening up the reader to the natural world and guiding them away from books. However, unlike Wordsworth, Clare was not an educated man and thus his call to nature instead of learning feels more accessible to the common person and does not have the irony of The Tables Turned.

Clare talks of nature as a sentient being, one which is always changing but will never die. This theme of cycles and rebirth is one which comes up in a lot of nature writing and one which most of us can relate to or feel inspired or comforted by.

“Nature” is What We See, Emily Dickinson

“Nature” is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse— the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Thunder—the Cricket—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.

NB, A bobolink is a type of bird with a lovely tune.

Defining nature was one of my key aims this month so it was only appropriate that I included this poem. I really like the way that Dickinson plucks at definitions and discards them as being unsuitable. There is a quality about it that, even though it is more than a list, reads as a list. A ticking off of things which nature is not. Finding she cannot use that particular sense to find nature, she moves on to a new list. And eventually gives up. The poem itself appears simple but Dickinson’s use of language means it is more than what it first seems, like many good poems. The ordering of her images means we are constantly moving between small and large and thus she cleverly illustrates the vast diversity of nature. The delicate twinkle of the Bobolink contrasts with the strong and powerful sound of the sea.

The Causeway, Lindesfarne, Emily Dee

I love the texture in this poem, the crisp frost, the gritty sand, the soft, slithery snail. They really help me feel part of the place, and they focus me in on the detail and then the tearful seals raising their heads to the sky throw me wide.

The last two lines of this poem stunned me. The moon as a silent engine, how powerful and how Dee has taken this incredibly natural, almost untouchable, entity and turned it on its head with the use of the word engine, a word which summons up man made, functionality.

Dee was 17 when she was one of the winners of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2016.

An ABC of memories

An ABC of memories

Abseiling, aged eleven

Breaking up for summer holidays

Climbing Pen-y-Ghent

Dancing in a show for the millennium

Expectantly waiting for A Level results (in vain, long story)

Furniture shopping

Getting caught in a storm, barefoot

Holding hands by the Coliseum in Rome

Invigilating an exam

Journeys to Glasgow, repeated for a year

Kitkats and irn bru in china mugs

Learning sign language by night

Making jenga towers with young people

Nestled up on a sofa with a dvd

Overcast days in the Lake District

People and Planet Regional Representative for Yorkshire

Quacking from the park, disturbing sleep

Rolling down the hill in the playground

Scrabble, wine and cake

Tulips on our kitchen table

Unicorn riding on the beach (in dreams perhaps?)

Volunteering with Brownies, aged fourteen

Writing poetry in the shadow of Chester Cathedral

Xylophones in primary school music lessons, played badly

Youth club canal boat trip (and falling in the water)

Zesty homemade lemonade in the sun by York walls




You’ll know me by the legs

Twisted around and around

Each other

Vines strangling and choking


You’ll know me by the penetrating

Cold of my skin, the shivering

Marble statue

Posed in front of you


You’ll know me by the child’s wrists

Fragile, weakened by trauma

Outlined by silvery scars

And the ghosts of my past


You’ll know me by the inked

Memories; a camera, a daisy

Sketched on in an attempt

To reclaim the body I rent


You’ll know me by the solitary

Silver stud in my left ear

Nestled alongside a natural pinprick:

How my mother identified newborn me


You’ll know me by the book

Clutched to chest, the camera

Round my neck and the paw

Placed in my left hand


You’ll know me, even when faceless.

One of the prompts from the girl in a hat that I mentioned yesterday was ‘Ways they’d find you in a faceless line-up’ which was a really interesting idea.  I did try writing a list but I think I’m so unaware of myself, there’s such a distinction between mind and body that I really struggled.

List poetry: Jobs I’ve had

There’s a great post by the girl in the hat over at The Daily Post about poetry from lists including a number of prompts.  I’ve added them all to my list of ideas to return to but here’s a completely unedited list of jobs I’ve had:

Jobs I’ve had

Menial farm work for a father I love

But love wasn’t enough

Piecemeal wages required


3am start at the newsagents

Inserting supplements into weekend papers

Who knew that was a job


Graduated to serving in the same establishment

Sleazy customers and £1 of penny sweets

Each individually counted


Two summers in customer services

In a college, old man wanted to learn pottery

Could he make a frog rather than a nude?


Three weeks stuffing envelopes

So good they kept me the summer

Filing and photocopying


Three months in a medical school

Followed by two sessions

Pretending to be a patient


A couple of days temping

In an office without capacity

To assign me tasks


Nine months in an office

Filled with playground politics

And added alcohol


Thrown in the deep end

Personal Assistant to the Head of Department

Once you learn the language, it’s easy to swim


Final destination, same office

Same team yet numerous masks

Trialled over four years