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° F one day, torrential downpour and epic flooding the next day, and snow the following day! I think our weather makes us hearty. 😉

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 — it could be a reflection on what’s 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. 🙂

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. 🙂

NaPoWriMo–A poem a day for one month!

I just stumbled upon the awesomeness of NaPoWriMo. Similarly to National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, the goal is to write every day for a month. However, in this case, the “Po” is short for “poetry,” and the objective is simple: a new poem every day. Whew! No room for procrastination with this one, scrambling at the end of the month to fulfill a quota. That is the best, and worst, news for a writer. It’s the freedom and pressure to start writing immediately. “To create a masterpiece, we must first make a mess on the page,” my writing teachers kept trying to convince us. I think it sort of worked, but that nagging “this is garbage” voice in the back of our minds still tries to hold us back from working on our art. That, or sometimes it’s actually someone trying to break through your “artist fog” and asking you to take out the trash. (This is one of the best excuses to avoid chores at any given time.) Ha. Do you see how I am procrastinating with bad jokes? 😉

I’m really excited for this challenge because poetry is essential to me–not just as a writer, not just as a reader, but as a person, too. Poetry has always been my best (and most challenging) way of expressing myself. I feel it has the great potential for catharsis or even therapy. Sometimes, all you need to do to solve a problem is to dress it up in pretty words and look at it from a different angle–to confront it on the page in front of you–and then the pressure of a conclusion propels you into a solution.
In addition, I’m one of those really annoying people who thinks in poetry. If you pay attention, my sentences are often in iambic pentameter. A tip-off of this may be awkward rhythm or surrounding people giving that look like, “Who talks like that anymore?”

Our late guinea pig, Chad, asks a question

Our late guinea pig, Chad, asks a question

It helps when I add in archaic language. My poetry teacher forced me to retire “Hark!” in my sonnets…and I think he might have been right. Hey, I can’t help that I grew up reading primarily Victorian/Romantic era literature! The speech patterns subsequently implanted themselves. 😉

Anyway, in true writer fashion, the day is almost over by the time I have ended up uploading this post! But there’s still time! Without further ado, I present my brand-new poem, “Tiana.” As my Twitter followers have already seen, I met a woman on Sunday that I just had to write about before I could resume my drive home. Here is her poem.

By: Amanda K. Fowler

Tiana is wearing false lashes,
Teased blond hair and makeup
A veil of her age
That disappears
When she talks about why she loves it here,
A gas station on the edge of nowhere
That she has to run out and explain to people how to use.
“We’re one of the very last,”
She says, beaming,
Pointing like a beauty queen
With manicured nails
To the vintage gas pumps.
She tells me how it reminds her of home:
They used to have these when she was a girl in California,
She says, wistfully,
Her eyes 2000 miles away.
They are a test, she says,
Because people could come and steal
But no one does.
And suddenly I love
That she feels at home
Here, of all places,
Surrounded by Midwestern corn farms,
Watching people on the edge of town
Going out into the world,
But this gas station
Is her anchor to the past,
To oranges and sunshine
And old-fashioned decorum.
I see it in sepia,
But to her,
It is brilliant.