At the Intersection of Earth Day and National Poetry Month

04/22/2013 06:08 pm ET | Updated Jun 22, 2013
  • Meg Waite Clayton Bestselling Novelist, 'The Race for Paris' and 'The Wednesday Sisters'

Rydal Water, where Wordsworth walked and wrote

Can I resist the excuse of the intersection of Earth Day and National Poetry Month to share two favorite poems that explore the earth and nature?

The first, from Elizabeth Bishop's The Moose, always reminds me of the only moose I've ever seen in the wild, from a bus when I was on a youth group trip to Canada decades ago. This is one of my favorite poems, in part because it brings with its words that breathtaking memory:

Taking her time,
she looks the bus over,
grand, otherworldly.
Why, why do we feel
(we all feel) this sweet
sensation of joy?

On those trips, our youth group leader taught us to leave the places we visited more pristine than when we came, and to that end we used biodegradable soaps when we camped, and cleaned up not just our own trash, but also any other we saw.

The second poem I first heard read at Marilyn Yalom's home; John Felstiner read it so beautifully that I was literally left weeping in my chair. It begins:

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

You can read the entirety of that poem, "Let Evening Come" by Jane Kenyon, on page 273-4 of The Four Ms. Bradwells (used with permission, of course), or on page 326 of John's Can Poetry Save the Earth, a volume I commend to everyone.

I'm often inspired in my writing by places of beauty I have the good fortune to be able to see, here in California, in the Maryland countryside, on the Chesapeake, in the English Lake District, and elsewhere. I'm not alone, as these poems show. You don't need to look any further than the photo at the top of this post, snapped by me on a typical English Lake District afternoon, to see that there is a reason, for example, that the Lake District Poets, including Wordsworth, found inspiration in the natural beauty of the Lake District. I'm going to spend some time today thinking about what I take from this earth, and what I leave. Will you join me? - Meg