by Sam Killmeyer
April is a month to celebrate the re-greening of the world, and there’s no better way to honor something special than with poetry! Plus, it just so happens to be both National Poetry Month and Earth Month, which gives you yet another reason to turn to eco-poetry. Here are excerpts of a few poems that are bringing me joy, including pieces by Colorado-based poets.
Read them to the robins, to the newly budding trees, to yourself over breakfast. Read them when you need help finding hope in the face of climate catastrophe or want a fresh way to connect with the earth. Happy national poetry month, happy earth day, and happy reading!
Abigail Chabitnoy – If You’re Going to Look Like a Wolf They Have to Love You More Than They Fear You
“A man thought wolves should be used
to cull the herd.
And we who had been catching water
dripping through stone
in the homes we dug
out of the earth
we licked our long teeth clean
and set to work.”
Chabitnoy is a Colorado-based poet, living and writing in Denver. Her book How To Dress A Fish (2019), won the Colorado Book Award for Poetry.
Camille T. Dungy – this beginning may have always meant this end
“coming from a place where we meandered mornings and met quail, scrub jay, mockingbird, i knew coyote, like everyone else, i knew cactus, knew tumbleweed, lichen on the rocks and pill bugs beneath, rattlers sometimes, the soft smell of sage and the ferment of cactus pear.”
Dungy is a Colorado-based poet, living and writing in Fort Collins where she teaches at CSU.
David Rothman – Always Somewhere
“Somewhere in the dark is always mountains,
Years in mountains, mountains silent, standing
Inscrutable, big, rocky, piercing, sheer,
And hills, wrinkled and rippling, calling clear”
Rothman is a Colorado-based poet who lives in Crested Butte and serves as the Western Slope poet laureate.
David Mucklow – inheriting ghosts
a shallow ocean the father of sandstone subduction the father of
orogeny the father of these mountains of schist and granite and gneiss
fathers like these talk about weather and land but
A Colorado-based poet, Mucklow was born and raised outside of Steamboat Springs. He writes about mountains, rivers, ranching, trout, and the west.
Ross Gay – To The Fig Tree On 9th and Christian
“…a man on his way
to work hops twice
to reach at last his fig which he smiles at and calls
baby, c’mere baby,
he says and blows a kiss
to the tree…”
Want more? Watch/listen to a collaboration with Bon Iver for the poem Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
Ross Gay lives in Bloomington Indiana where he serves on the board of the Bloomington Community Orchard.
Aimee Nezhukumatathil – I Could Be a Whale Shark
“Yes–I could be
a whale shark, newly spotted
with moles from the pregnancy—
my wide mouth always open
to eat and eat with a look that says
Surprise! Did I eat that much?“
Nezhukumatathil also has a new book of illustrated essays about the way the natural world can teach and inspire us: World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments
Joy Harjo – Eagle Poem
“To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;”
Joy Harjo is a member of the Muscogee Nation and the U.S. Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold that role.
W.S. Merwin – Place
“On the last day of the world
I would want to plant a tree
not for 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”
Merwin lived from the late 1970s until his death in 2019 on an old pineapple plantation in Hawaii, which he worked to restore to its original rainforest state.
Sherwin Bitsui – From Dissolve
“They inherit a packet of earth
hear its coins clank in a tin box
push them aside
reap thick strands of night from thinning black hair.”
Bitsui was raised in White Cone, Arizona on the Navajo Reservation. He creates poems and visual arts about the transformations of the landscape of the Southwest.
Brenda Hillman – The Bride Tree Can’t Be Read
“The bride tree puts down its roots
below the phyla. It is there
when we die & when we are born,
middle & upper branches reaching
the planet heart by the billions
during a revolution we don’t see.”
Hillman lives in Tucson, AZ, and writes about geology, the environment, politics, family, and spirituality.