I usually write using the language of the natural world. I think I am often prematurely labeled as a "nature poet," but I don't care because I probably am too quick to label other poets as well. I will continue to write using the images and language that excite me, but what writers use the language and imagery found in the natural world and have transcended that dreaded "Nature Writer" tag?
I have had some amazing examples to learn from; Roethke's "North American Sequence", Keats' "Ode To Autumn" (and others), many James Wright poems, James Dickey's Drowning With Others, Larry Levis' The Widening Spell of the Leaves, Robert Penn Warren's Audubon: A Vision, Robert Olmstead's Stay Here With Me: A Memoir, and many sections of Cormac McCarthy's novels, especially the first part of The Crossing. Their work seems to rise organically and bridge the gap between human and other. That connection or that investigation into that connection is what I feel most great writing contains. But each of these writers evoke in me a visceral response that comes from something else. Is it just the writer saying something true for me? Is it me connecting with another? Is it the music? I want to believe it is something spiritual, magical, what have you, and I think I do. It seems corny to say it like that, but I think going to the edge of corny, sentimental, whatever, is something every writer must do and if you are too afraid to do that you are probably too afraid of what readers think of your writing (like we all are at times).
Recently I've added a new poet, Robert Wrigley, to my list, specifically a sequence in Reign of Snakes called "Earthly Meditations." I just saw that the first section of this work is at the Poetry Foundation's website. This poem is alive with crazy music. It truly is a meditation on the earth. I think if this poem were to accidentally show up in a workshop it would be torn apart. Someone would say, "cut every other word." It is adrift and if it were an essay in my Writing & Rhetoric class I would say it needs to be grounded (Well, really I would be blown away and say you get an A). This poem dares to be torn apart! That is the trouble with how we learn in MFA programs! OK, I won't go there.
I am very happy I found this poem.
to smoke, the lawn lumpish with goldfinches,
hunched in their fluffs, fattened by seed,
alight in the wind-bared peduncular forest.
Little bells, they loop and dive, bend
the delicate birch branches down.
I would enter the sky through the soil
myself, sing up the snail bowers
and go on the lam with the roots.
Licked by filaments, I would lie,
a billion love-mouths to suckle and feed.
a puddle two trout go savagely dying in.
Notice the bland, Darwinian sand: bone wrack
and tree skin, the ground down moon bowls
of mussels, viral stones dividing like mold.
At twelve, I buried the frog because it was dead
and dug it up because I'd been dreaming—
a fish belly light, a lowly chirruped chorus
of amens. I thought my nights might smell of hell.
if I've killed one frog, I've killed two.
Saint Rot and the sacraments of maggots:
knowing is humus and sustenance is sex.
It accrues and accrues, it stews
tumorous with delight. Tomorrow's
a shovelful, the spit of the cosmos, one day
the baby's breath is no longer a rose.