Archive for July 13, 2011

Nature Poem vs. Nature Poem

For many people, the nature poem can be divided into two major categories: the let’s-feel-good, nature-is-just-spiffy poem or the you-must-wake-up-now and do-something-to-save-the-earth poem.  The flaw of easily categorizing nature poetry is why I am especially enjoying my workshop at Chautauqua with Aimee Nezhukumatathil.   Aimee advocates that we enjoy the beauty and wonderment of nature, yet she doesn’t fall into the trap of sentimentality.  For those of you who know Aimee’s work, you understand that the natural world often works its way into the lines of her poems.  You will see a corpse flower, a cobra, an octopus.  She is celebrating nature, yet, readers don’t walk away feeling as they are stepping out of a Hallmark card splashed with flowers.

A few weeks ago, poet Shara McCallum  told me that landscape and the natural world is an important part of my poetic “space” and I think that is true.  Yet others have told me that I do have a doom and gloom attitude in many of my works, and I can see where readers see the danger in my poems (rivers so polluted they could catch fire, cornfields that could hide menacing teenage boys). I took this workshop because I wanted to work with the natural world in my works.

Currently, the class is working on the haibun.  For those of you who don’t know the haibun, it’s a prose poem plus a haiku (I am dumbing down the more specifics of form; for that I apologize).  While I work with the prose poem, I have never really mastered the haibun.  What fascinates me about this kind of poem is the content — nature writing with a touch of darkness.  Yet, I find that there’s beauty in the ominous content.

Tonight, I am finishing a haibun for workshop homework.  It’s about the last fire escape in town — and it features the notorious cowbird, a lazy and ugly bird (my apologies to cowbird lovers) that  drops her eggs into other birds nests.  Once the young hatches, the baby cowbirds push its “adopted” siblings from the nest.  I may have just found my poetic form that fits the landscapes of my world.