Environmental poetry

It’s National Poetry Day this Thursday (6th October). I hope lots of poets and poems are making new connections with readers young and old this week. Here are some environmental poems that I have really enjoyed reading and listening to over the last year. I hope you enjoy them too and that they inspire your own thinking and writing about the environment:

If this is the Last Spring of the World is the title poem of Maureen Boyle’s collection The Last Spring of the World (Arlen House). Its narrator asks the chilling question ‘If this is the last spring of the world/will we realise it?/Will the world know it is blooming only once more?’ Click on the link to hear the poet reading it.

October by Gillian Clarke (from Zoology, Carcanet)captures that change in the season which we are going through this week when ‘The trees are closing down/in leaf-dropping silence’ and the conkers sprung from their prickly casings, magical, shining and waiting for you to pick them up and polish them. Something that I can never resist.

It sucks by Matt Goodfellow, a poem about how we don’t need drinking straws in Be the Change: poems to help you save the world – a lovely collection of positive poems about looking after our planet and each other by Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens (Pan Macmillan)

The European Eel by Steve Ely (Longbarrow Press) is a stunning book-length poem about the journey of the eel across oceans and back again to its mating ground in the Sargasso Sea. Read a section of it here.

The Levels Are Changing by Aly Stoneman is a poem all about the rise in sea levels and was incorporated into a sculpture by Raphael Daden as part of the Weymouth Sculpture Trail in 2021. Stoneman’s poetry and her doctoral research explores human relationships with a natural world facing severe climate change.

To Know Green from Green by Kei Miller from in nearby bushes (Carcanet) explores some of the million shades of green that exist in nature: ‘To know the nearby bushes you must know green from green/know seafoam different from sea, teal different from tea,/ & still a million shades between.’ You could use this poem as a starting point for writing about many different colour variations in the natural world.

Preface from Elizabeth-Jane Burnett’s collection Swims (Penned in the Margins)begins: ‘The river is something that happens/like exercise or illness to the body/on any given day I am rivering’. I love that idea of ‘rivering’, that sense of being at one with the water and all it contains. Swims is another long poem split into sections which explore different wild swims. Download a sample of her work, including Preface, here.

Wren Time from Philip Gross‘s wonderful 2017 collection A Bright Acoustic (Bloodaxe). I could have chosen so many poems from this book in which Gross captures the minutiae of the sound world around us and our relationship with the environment. The wren is a tiny garden bird with a huge song. We usually have at least one pair of wrens nesting in our allotment hedges every year. They are hard to spot as they move very quickly through the undergrowth, leaving their songs behind them: ‘Flitter-flicked, the blur and/gone of it, at ankle height… and me/ in mid step – stilled.”

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