Forces of Nature: Earth Day and Pastoral Poems

Happy Earth Day, children of Gaia! Just kidding, I’ll try not to make this too weird. Sure, I’m obsessed with nature, but in a completely self-aware way, with a sister who will tell me when I’m wearing one, or five, too many flowers at a time. I did my part today by wearing earthy colors and shoes with big flowers on them. Yes, I can’t resist celebrating holidays, even Earth Day!

Speaking of nature, we’ve been having some crazy weather in the Midwest. Last week, we had 70¬į F one day, torrential downpour and epic flooding the next day, and snow the following day! I think our weather makes us hearty. ūüėČ

We are still dealing with the effects of the flood. I was visiting Jeremiah’s farm when it hit, and luckily, the house and animals are OK, but the surrounding fields and forested area had quite the challenge.

No one in the area, or back home, had ever seen flooding so bad before. I guess, if I were to think of it as an author (which ¬†I always do)…maybe the rain was washing away the tragedies from earlier this week (the bombing in Boston and the explosion in West, Texas) and refreshing the earth, the people…The plants certainly got a drink, and I saw flowers blossoming today around the campus at Marianjoy.

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was in keeping with the theme:

In honor of the occasion, I challenge you to write a poem in keeping with Earth Day ‚ÄĒ it could be a reflection on what‚Äôs growing in your garden, a¬†modern pastoral, or a Marianne-Moore-style¬†poem about an animal. Anything to do with the natural world is fair game.

Because I am so inspired by nature, I was happy to see this prompt. In fact, I have presented and published a few of my favorite nature poems. I was selected to read these poems by the English Graduate Student Association at their second and third annual conferences, while I was a graduate student, myself, there. This, along with my selection for Radio DePaul, was one of my most rewarding experiences at DePaul. The conference was a celebration of select students’ work, organized by category, and we read our work aloud to our fellow students, faculty, family members, guests, etc. After the conference, a selected number of presentations were chosen to publish in the conferences’ proceedings. For tonight’s poem, I will point you to one that I wrote about my relationship with nature, which was pubilshed in the 2011 DePaul EGSA Proceedings. It is in blank verse, and I wrote this while I was at Jeremiah’s farm one summer night (pre-flooding–if I were to write it right now, it would have a decidedly soggier note to it). That’s one of my favorite things about going out there–it’s like a different world, where the only sounds you can hear are alive, where the air feels fresh…well, you can read the rest in the poem. ūüôā

Please click here to read “Country Nocturne” on page 159 (you can “search” the title and it will take you there).

Enjoy the last few moments of Earth Day! You might consider hugging a tree, planting a flower…or just shutting off a light a few minutes early. ūüôā

“Jaundiced Outlook”–NaPoWriMo #2

Hi everyone! We’re having a lovely spring day over here, and my mom and I decided to visit the library. One of my favorite¬†pastimes¬†on spring days was when my mom would take my sister and me to the library as kids. We loved going up and down the aisles and picking out books (often by their covers, whoops), finding the comfiest chairs to sit in–and oh my gosh, the bookmarks! There were always fun new bookmarks to take, sometimes with a quote, sometimes with a cartoon, sometimes cut from wallpaper. The bookmarks were almost as exciting as the books themselves, and we quickly amassed great piles to stuff into our dressers (and the books, of course). We also loved participating in the library’s reading challenges, where you’d have to read a certain number of books off of a list of award-winners to get a small prize. I don’t even remember the prizes, but I do remember the books.

Another day, another poem! Today, I’m going to go for the prompt that NaPoWriMo has given us, mostly because it is just so weird that I can’t resist it. The prompt:

The books of Scottish science fiction writer Iain M. Banks often have spaceships in them. And those spaceships have extremely odd, poetic names. So your challenge for today is to write a poem with a title drawn from one of these spaceship names.

I have to say I’ve never run across a prompt like that before. One of the ship names in particular caught my eye: “Jaundiced Outlook.” Because I was born with jaundice, I knew that it meant “yellowed skin.” I read that it’s based on some kind of blood imbalance, but I’ve also heard that people with unusually colored skin are sometimes destined to do great things.

Elphaba "Defying Gravity" from my favorite musical, "Wicked"

Elphaba “Defying Gravity” from my favorite musical, “Wicked”

Anyway, my skin adjusted in a few weeks as it often does in newborn babies, so I’ll let Elphaba handle Oz on her own at the moment and stick to writing, myself. I decided to look up the word in my favorite dictionary (Merriam-Webster, an acquired love from grad school), because I knew the definition must be more complex than just a color.


 adjective \-dəst\

1: affected with or as if with jaundice
2: exhibiting or influenced by envy, distaste, or hostility <a jaundiced eye>

I was also attracted to this particular title because¬†the concept is exactly opposite from the perspective I try to adhere to–but it is so easy to fall into a trap of negativity, isn’t it? Is it safer? Here’s my opinion, in blank verse–I did warn you about the iambic pentameter. ūüėČ

“Jaundiced Outlook”
By: Amanda K. Fowler

Who could blame Alice, shutting the window
On a fine spring day? Only yesterday
It was not sunshine, but sharp, ragged hail,
That came through the frame, scraping and bruising
Poor Alice, and she just could not lower
The glass before the damage came to scar.

I find I cannot be judging the girl,
She is only guilty of protecting
Herself, of course, and whatever she feels
Alone on her cushion, gazing beyond
The panes at the cardinals frolicking,
The chrysanthemums dancing in the wind–
It is hers, wrapped in a knot to wither.

But then, I do wonder what she’s missing
Sitting safe and alone behind the glass.
The world continues to turn without her
And the window is yellowing with age.
Yes, Alice sits here and watches it all,
Seeing the world through her jaundiced outlook.