Forms of Nature: Ecopoetics and Forms

After receiving the latest issue of the Kenyon Review, I have realized how well formal poems and natural images coincide. Nature, in itself, has structure; from the Macrocosm down to the Quantum level, despite our lack of knowledge in both fields of study.

Many examples of this come from Antiquity of course. Shakespeare’s sonnets often dwell in the idea of the natural image. Many of Byron’s work, such as his love poem “She Walks in Beauty,” rely heavily on the stars, night, and cosmic imagery.  But, there are many poets today that relish in this tradition. Mary Oliver is a naturalist poet who often speaks into the human level of being a part of the natural world around us (for example, see “Rain” or “Wild Geese“). Albert Goldbarth, a poet inquisitive in the realms of science, also writes poems that deal in the realm of the natural.

I want to take the time to appreciate one particular poem of late that speaks to me on both the human and animal level. It is titled “Augury” and is by Ryan Patrick Smith. It can be found in the newest issue of the Kenyon Review. My favorite lines are as follows:

They sing to one another in the tree that overhangs the world’s flat roofs, adjust

their feathers like a bevy of hatchets. Read them

this way. The starlings smell famine nearby & trouble coming the way someone tracking through woods smells rot in the dark

The poem centers on the invisible forms of language in starling’s motions. They sing and yet harbinger a type of mourning for an earth that no longer sees the beauty in such things.

Ecopoetics is a recently coined term for poetry that seeks to display the natural world as environmental writing and acts as a defense of its own poetics. There are now ecopoetic critics in the past couple years who have made the genre into the canon of critical theories. In the world of the poets, one of the vast wells we can pull images from comes from the natural world. It is not cliché to use the universe around us considering we too are the universe, only we are the universe writing itself into both the margins of history and to understand our place in the cosmos and on this lonely planet.


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