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Poems While You Wait Inside

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Created: 4/15/2020      Updated: 4/18/2020

Art adds a powerful dimension to interpreting nature and nature is often a powerful inspiration for many artists. We celebrate this connection every day at the Nature Museum from rotating art shows to crafting activities at our family events. 

Poetry is one of the most intimate ways to reflect on our connectedness with Nature. We asked our poet friends at Poems While You Wait to share some of their favorite nature-inspired poetry and add a note on why they chose their selected poems. The poets also included links to their social media accounts, so you can check out their own work. You can also learn more, and comission your own poem, on their website.

You can write your own poems as well! There is always inspiration in nature, whether you’re on a walk or just looking out the window. Take a few minutes with these recommendations and consider trying a poem yourself Look to nature and see what you find!

Enjoy.


“From Blossoms” by Li-Young Lee 

From blossoms comes 

this brown paper bag of peaches 

we bought from the boy 

at the bend in the road where we turned toward 

signs painted Peaches. 

 

From laden boughs, from hands, 

from sweet fellowship in the bins, 

comes nectar at the roadside, succulent 

peaches we devour, dusty skin and all, 

comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat. 

 

O, to take what we love inside, 

to carry within us an orchard, to eat 

not only the skin, but the shade, 

not only the sugar, but the days, to hold 

the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into 

the round jubilance of peach. 

 

There are days we live 

as if death were nowhere 

in the background; from joy 

to joy to joy, from wing to wing, 

from blossom to blossom to 

impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom. 

Poems While You Wait’s Danielle Levsky (she/her) is a Post-Soviet Jewish writer, clown, actor, and instructional designer. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and her website

Of her recommendation, she writes: “Li-Young Lee was introduced to me by my high school Creative Writing teacher. His poems about braiding and cities always felt connected to the ground, the Earth these ideas sprouted from and rooted within. ‘From Blossoms’ has been my favorite homage to the sweetness of warm weather, to the sweetness of summer love, to the sweetness of gardens.” 


XLIX by Oshikochi No Mitsune 

(translated by Kenneth Rexroth in One Hundred Poems from the Japanese)

The white chrysanthemum 

Is disguised by the first frost. 

If I wanted to pick one 

I could find it only by chance. 

 

Poems While You Wait’s Caro Macon Fleischer is a Texas-born, Chicago-based writer and editor. Follow her on Twitter.

Of her recommendation, she writes, “When I was in high school, my mom gave me this book One Hundred Poems from the Japanese translated by Kenneth Rexroth. I always thought they were all so short and beautiful. It's a very used copy that is now held together by tape and binder clips. It has a lot of my mom's personal notes in the margins, from when she was in her twenties. Since they are so short I've memorized a lot of them and they have stuck with me over the years. I always think about this one especially during springtime. There are also a lot of love poems in the collection that bring in nature that I think of often and adore.


The Panther by Rainier Maria Rilke 

His vision, from the constantly passing bars, 

has grown so weary that it cannot hold 

anything else. It seems to him there are 

a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world. 

 

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over, 

the movement of his powerful soft strides 

is like a ritual dance around a center 

in which a mighty will stands paralyzed. 

 

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils 

lifts, quietly—. An image enters in, 

rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles, 

plunges into the heart and is gone. 

 

Poem’s While You Wait’s Lisa Farver is a poet and improviser based in Chicago. She has performed her work at Women Made Gallery, Chicago Poetry Brothel, and other venues throughout the city. Follow her on Twitter.

Of her recommendation, she writes, “Rilke's panther captures the ache of the chasm that still yawns between nature and man.” 


Place by W.S. Merwin 

On the last day of the world 

I would want to plant a tree 

 

what for

not the fruit 

 

the tree that bears the fruit 

is not the one that was planted 

 

I want the tree that stands 

in the earth for the first time 

 

with the sun already 

going down 

 

and the water 

touching its roots 

 

in the earth full of the dead 

and the clouds passing 

 

one by one 

over its leaves 

 

Dave Landsberger is a founding member of Poems While You Wait.

Of his recommendation, he writes, “No famous modern poets have dedicated themselves more to rejuvenating, learning from, and protecting the Earth than W.S. Merwin. This is perhaps his most signature poem, and it gains even greater significance 38 years after it was published.” 


“The Fury of Sunrises” by Anne Sexton 

Darkness 

as black as your eyelid 

poketricks of stars, 

the yellow mouth, 

the smell of a stranger, 

dawn coming up, 

dark blue, 

no stars, 

the smell of a lover, 

warmer now 

as authentic as soap, 

wave after wave 

of lightness 

and the birds in their chains 

going mad with throat noises, 

the birds in their tracks 

yelling into their cheeks like clowns, 

lighter, lighter, 

the stars gone, 

the trees appearing in their green hoods, 

the house appearing across the way, 

the road and its sad macadam, 

the rock walls losing their cotton, 

lighter, lighter, 

letting the dog out and seeing 

fog lift by her legs, 

a gauze dance, 

lighter, lighter, 

yellow, blue at the tops of trees, 

more God, more God everywhere, 

lighter, lighter, 

more world everywhere, 

sheets bent back for people, 

the strange heads of love 

and breakfast, 

that sacrament, 

lighter, yellower, 

like the yolk of eggs, 

the flies gathering at the windowpane, 

the dog inside whining for food 

and the day commencing, 

not to die, not to die, 

as in the last day breaking, 

a final day digesting itself, 

lighter, lighter, 

the endless colors, 

the same old trees stepping toward me, 

the rock unpacking its crevices, 

breakfast like a dream 

and the whole day to live through, 

steadfast, deep, interior. 

After the death, 

after the black of black, 

this lightness— 

not to die, not to die— 

that God begot. 

 

Poem’s While You Wait’s Eric Plattner was born in Los Angeles in October. Of his recommendation, he writes: “Because nature, like Sexton's poetry, should shock you awake.” 


The Field of Poppies by Peter Balakian 

for my mother 

Cypress spiral to the sky. 

Painters came here because 

the dirt was dry as their bones, 

because even the monastery on the hill 

flaked each day. 

You want a picture of yourself 

in this poppy field; 

wind blowing the long grass 

around your legs, 

fields of yellow flower across 

the road moving away from you. 

The high mountain is where 

the town’s saint disappeared 

with his wound. 

When he returned 

peach trees sprouted from rock, 

and the gray clouds left the mountain. 

 

Cypress spiral to the sky. 

Your father found this field 

and the mountain uncovered, 

the monastery a pure glint of sun. 

You want this picture 

to show your body disappearing 

in the red waves of flower, 

a field of pin-pricks 

rising and falling in the breeze, 

each step spreading the red 

over your joints.

 

You want the red to cover 

the mountain, 

you want the line where 

sky and land meet 

to turn the color of the heart. 

This is how your father left; 

foot, knee, stomach, face 

disappearing in the stain of this field, 

in the light wind that sang 

in the red flowers. 

Poems While You Wait’s Hajrije Kolimja is an Albanian American writer in Chicago who enjoys reading and writing about women from diasporic communities.

Of her recommendation, she writes, “This poem captures how people and history are forever linked to nature, how we struggle with the desire to make new memories in tragic places.”

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