Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me – The Carriage held but just Ourselves – And Immortality. We slowly drove – He knew no haste And I had put away My labor and my leisure too, For His Civility – We passed the School, where Children strove At Recess – in the
poems & poets
the trees all planted in the same month after the same fire
each thick around
as a man’s wrist
meticulously spaced grids cutting the sunshine
into panels into planks
and crossbeams of light
nature poetry, nature in poetry: The natural world has been one of the recurring subjects of poetry, frequently the primary one, in every age and every country. Yet we cannot easily define nature, which, as Gary Snyder points out in his preface to No Nature (1992), “will not fulfill our conceptions or assumptions” and “will dodge our expectations and theoretical models.” Yet the urge to describe the natural world — its various landscapes, its changing seasons, its surrounding phenomena — has been an inescapable part of the history of poetry. Wendell Berry provides a simple useful definition of nature poetry as poetry that “considers nature as subject matter and inspiration.”
Our concepts of nature are relative, historically determined. The nature poem is affected by ideology, by literary conventions as well as social and cultural ideas. Raymond Williams contends, “Nature is perhaps the most complex word in the language.” The term nature is itself contested now because it
stanza: The natural unit of the lyric: a group or sequence of lines arranged in a pattern. A stanzaic pattern is traditionally defined by the meter and rhyme scheme, considered repeatable throughout a work. A stanzaic poem uses white space to create temporal and visual pauses. The word stanza means “room” in Italian— “a station,” “a stopping place”—and each stanza in a poem is like a room in a house, a lyric dwelling place. “The Italian etymology,” Ernst Häublein points out in his study of the stanza, “implies that stanzas are subordinate units within the more comprehensive unity of the whole poem.” Each stanza has an identity, a structural place in the whole. As the line is a single unit of meaning, so the stanza comprises a larger rhythmic and thematic sequence. It is a basic division comparable to the paragraph in prose, but more discontinuous, more insistent as a separate melodic and rhetorical unit. In written poems stanzas are separated by white space, and this division on
Open Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Some of the poems are short, others long, but they all have long lines.
Long lines are oceanic. They wash over you like waves, one after another, each of them full of shells and sand and fish and surfboards, sometimes pieces of wrecks and the bodies of sailors. The long line is more conclusive and inclusive than the partial, subdivided short line. If short lines are like quick pants, long lines resemble great, deep breathes.
That’s how I present long lines to students at first, as units of breath. I tell them, “Take a deep breath, then as you exhale, make up your line. When you take a new breathe, start a new line.” sometimes the long line will resemble a long sentence; other times it will look like a short paragraph. I try to demonstrate extemporaneously: I take a dramatic deep breath, then try to exhale some words that sound like poetry: “Outside it’s raining and I suspect that the roof is leaking. Oh no! It’s falling on that boy’s head