Mother Earth Living

How To Write Nature Poetry

Try these exercises to find the poet in you
By Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
April/May 2002
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 Loved One in the Landscape

This is an exercise I adapted from a workshop with Colorado’s poet laureate Mary Crow.

• Think of a relative who’s been on your mind lately. Put his or her initials in the top right corner of your page. Now forget him or her for a while.

• Think of whatever is happening now in the outside world. On your way to work today, what did you see? Consider plants, weather, animals, and geography. Be as specific as possible. Write “robins bobbing for worms on the wet sidewalk” instead of “birds eating.” Come up with twenty images.

• Think again of the person whose initials you wrote. You’re going to write a poem that incorporates the images you collected with the personality of the person you selected. On a separate sheet, write a line about what’s happening outdoors. Write the next line about the person. The two lines don’t need to be obviously connected. For instance:

The swollen bud bursts into bloom.

My lover brushes my hair before bed.

• These two lines are your first stanza. Continue this two-line pattern until your poem feels complete.

When I Sit Very Still  

I based this exercise on a title in Letters From a Stranger (Conundrum, 1998) by Jim Tipton, one of my favorite poets.

• Take your pen and paper outside. Go somewhere you feel comfortable sitting for a long time.

• Before you take out your writing utensils, just take in the world with all your senses. What do you hear? Smell? See? Touch? Taste—only if there are edible herbs nearby. But even if there’s nothing edible nearby, a well-paced taste can really improve a poem. When you describe the pine tree bark as “chocolate,” the image is more sensual than plain “brown” bark.

• Once you’ve “tuned in,” take out your pen and pad and write these words: “When I sit very still.” Following these words, write four lines total about what you hear.

• Continue this four-line pattern four times, each time focusing on a different sense.

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer is a freelance writer residing in Telluride, Colorado. She is the author of two books of poetry: Lunaria (Western Reflections, 1999) and If You Listen: Poems and Photographs of the San Juan Mountains (Western Reflections, 2000).

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