Since this week marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day AND also falls within National Poetry Month, we offer the following guide to some of the most important nature poetry …
Included are twelve essential nature poets whose work we continually read and re-read. Where possible, we’ve also included links to previously posted examples of their work on our website.
Perhaps the least known poet on this list, Liberty Hyde Bailey was a farmer and the preeminent American botanist of the early twentieth century. His work would go on to influence Wendell Berry, but his poetry in its simple, direct style is perhaps more akin to that of Mary Oliver.
The Signs of Life
Liberty Hyde Bailey
Ha, ye dead thing upon the ground
How few of ye I’ve ever found
And I have tramped it far and wide
By wood and wash and ripple-side!
And often have I wondered where
The bodies of the dead misfare, —
Of all the multitudes of those
The variegated life compose
Of field and sea and air and earth
Throughout the planet’s spacious girth.
Some pass life’s full allotted span;
On some there is the ’scapeless ban
That takes them early to the pit—
Where be the graves of the unfit?
But soon or late the day is sped
And strong and weak alike are dead,
They meet the summons where they are
And ev’ry death is singular;
And yet these millions pass unseen
And leave scant trace to intervene.
The gaps fill in; the earth is rife
With energy that mastereth;—
The upward signs of birth and life
Are greater than the signs of death.
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Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith
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