News From the Natural World: Save the Birds!

When I taught third grade, She’s Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head, was one of my favorite pictures books to share with my students. They were shocked at the cruelty of birds being killed so women could have fancy hats. The book tells the story of Harriet Hemenway who, with her cousin Minna Hall, helped launch the Massachusetts Audubon Society. They were part of a larger movement that began in the late 19th century to protect birds and stop their wholesale slaughter in the name of fashion. Florence Merriam Bailey was another fierce advocate for the birds, and wrote one of the first field guides to American birds, Birds Through an Opera-Glass. This poem, which is still very much a draft, is a tribute to these determined women.

In the 1890s, feathered hats
Were all the rage.
Ladies wore them everywhere:
To parties, parks, the stage.

Some women were revolted,
They knew that it was wrong
To kill quails and loons for fashion.
Let them sing their song!

Harriet, Minna, Florence, too,
Spread word throughout the land.
Stop this ghastly craze, they cried.
Save snowy egrets! their demand.

They rallied all their friends,
They sounded the alarm.
Taking feathers to festoon your head
Does hummingbirds great harm.

Soon laws were passed and habits changed.
Flamingos and pheasants protected.
People still think birds are beautiful,
But not to be collected.

Draft, © 2020, Catherine Flynn

Previous “News From the Natural World” poems:

April 23: An Earth Day ABC
April 21: Nature’s Harmony
April 20: Crowns of Moss
April 19: Propagation
April 18: At the Pond
April 17: The Red Chair
April 16: Dear Venus
April 15: Listen
April 14: Ode to a Tide Pool
April 11: What Does A Bird’s Egg Know?
April 10: Clusters of Clover
April 9: Song of the Pink Moon
April 8: Jewel of the Jungle
April 5: Phantom of the Forest
April 4: To Build a Nest
April 3: Apple Cake
April 2: Specimen
April 1: Forest Snail

News From the Natural World: An Earth Day ABC

               

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day. As sometimes happens, even in quarantine, the day got away from me. Meetings lasted longer than expected, with little time left to devote to writing a poem worthy of the occasion. And although it’s important to have a day set aside to call attention to and raise awareness about our one precious Earth, every day is Earth Day for me.

An Earth Day ABC

An atlas of the world can’t
Begin to reveal the
Complexity of connections, the
Diversity of life on
Earth.
For centuries, curious humans have
Grappled with questions, searching across
Hemispheres, seeking
Insights into our home, finding pieces of the
Jigsaw puzzle, gaining
Knowledge and
Learning the lessons
Mountains teach us. The earth
Nurtures and nourishes us. We are
Obligated to
Protect her, preserve her. Our reckless
Quest for riches is irresponsible. Actions
Ripple across the globe, casting
Shadows on life everywhere.
Today and everyday, seek to
Understand the
Vulnerability and vitality of our
Wondrous world.
eXchange hubris for humility. Change begins with
You.
Zoom in and discover nature’s abundant gifts.

Draft © 2020, Catherine Flynn

Previous “News From the Natural World” poems:

April 21: Nature’s Harmony
April 20: Crowns of Moss
April 19: Propagation
April 18: At the Pond
April 17: The Red Chair
April 16: Dear Venus
April 15: Listen
April 14: Ode to a Tide Pool
April 11: What Does A Bird’s Egg Know?
April 10: Clusters of Clover
April 9: Song of the Pink Moon
April 8: Jewel of the Jungle
April 5: Phantom of the Forest
April 4: To Build a Nest
April 3: Apple Cake
April 2: Specimen
April 1: Forest Snail

News From the Natural World: Nature’s Harmony

Today’s poem is a Golden Shovel. My strike line was taken from the writings of Alexander von Humboldt, considered by many to be the father of modern environmentalism. It is fitting that the Smithsonian has mounted a exhibition about Humboldt’s impact on art, nature, and culture in the United States during this fiftieth anniversary year of Earth Day.

If you want to learn more about this amazing man, I highly recommend The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World, by Andrea Wulf.

In addition to being an intrepid explorer, von Humboldt was a prolific writer, writing more than 36 volumes. His work influenced the thinking of Thoreau, Darwin, and John Muir, among others. It seems appropriate to remember and honor him this week.

The line I chose to work from is from a letter von Humboldt wrote in 1799:

I must find out about the harmony in nature.

This poem turned into something a little more personal than I expected, but we don’t always know where we’re headed when we start out.

Previous “News From the Natural World” poems:

April 20: Crowns of Moss
April 19: Propagation
April 18: At the Pond
April 17: The Red Chair
April 16: Dear Venus
April 15: Listen
April 14: Ode to a Tide Pool
April 11: What Does A Bird’s Egg Know?
April 10: Clusters of Clover
April 9: Song of the Pink Moon
April 8: Jewel of the Jungle
April 5: Phantom of the Forest
April 4: To Build a Nest
April 3: Apple Cake
April 2: Specimen
April 1: Forest Snail

 

News From the Natural World: Crowns of Moss

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, so I spent some time delving into the many resources available online. NASA’s Global Climate Change initiative has many resources, including this stunning poster created by Jenny Motter, art director for NASA Science. In a video explaining how she created this year’s Earth Day poster, Ms. Motter explained her process and inspiration. She mentioned the work of James Hutton, the father of modern geology.

I wasn’t familiar with Hutton, so I read some short bios of him and looked up some quotes. In his work, Theory of the Earth, Hutton states

To a naturalist, nothing is indifferent; the humble moss that creeps upon the stone is equally interesting as the lofty pine.

To the poet also. Hutton’s mention of the “humble moss” reminded me of a poem I wrote a few months ago but never shared. Today seemed like an appropriate time. Coincidentally, like yesterday’s poem, this is also a Fib.

Crowns of Moss

green
crowns
unfurl,
burst skyward
bedecking the ground
brightening shadowy spaces

Draft © 2020, Catherine Flynn

Previous “News From the Natural World” poems:

April 19: Propagation
April 18: At the Pond
April 17: The Red Chair
April 16: Dear Venus
April 15: Listen
April 14: Ode to a Tide Pool
April 11: What Does A Bird’s Egg Know?
April 10: Clusters of Clover
April 9: Song of the Pink Moon
April 8: Jewel of the Jungle
April 5: Phantom of the Forest
April 4: To Build a Nest
April 3: Apple Cake
April 2: Specimen
April 1: Forest Snail

News From the Natural World: Propagation

Today’s poem is a Fib, or Fibonacci poem, a poem that follows the Fibonacci sequence to determine the number of words, or in this case, syllables in each line of the poem. I worked out to eight syllables, then repeated the sequence backwards, ending with a single word. The idea for today’s poem came from “Propagation,” an essay by Naomi Huffman, in this week’s New York Times Magazine. You can read more about the real begonia in the poem here.

Propagation

From
one
plant, a
begonia
cared for through the years
by grandmothers, aunts, and nieces,
nurtured cuttings sprout roots in jars
heart-shaped leaves bloom: a
new cycle of
green life
is
born.

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2020

Previous “News From the Natural World” poems:

April 18: At the Pond
April 17: The Red Chair
April 16: Dear Venus
April 15: Listen
April 14: Ode to a Tide Pool
April 11: What Does A Bird’s Egg Know?
April 10: Clusters of Clover
April 9: Song of the Pink Moon
April 8: Jewel of the Jungle
April 5: Phantom of the Forest
April 4: To Build a Nest
April 3: Apple Cake
April 2: Specimen
April 1: Forest Snail

News From the Natural World: At the Pond

This poem is a response to the challenge Michelle Heidenrich Barnes posed on her blog yesterday. All month, Michelle has been sharing writing tips and wisdom from Patrice Vecchione‘s new book, My Shattered, Shouting, Whispering Voice: A Guide to Writing Poetry and Speaking Your TruthHere’s the prompt:

For this week’s challenge, I’ve selected “Into the Future: Take Yourself There Now” (Chapter 53) from Part III of My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice. Patrice writes:  

Is the future a place you wish you could arrive at now? I remember feeling that way. Or maybe here and now is fine. For the length of a poem, venture into that place called future, as you imagine it; peer into its unknown terrain, and see what you find.  

As some of you may know, I have an eleven-week old granddaughter. Fortunately, I was able to visit her in February before we all had to stay home. But of course I’m anxious to see her again. Her father, my son, recently sent me a photo of a baby turtle near the pond in their yard. This poem imagines a future visit to the pond with my granddaughter.

Someday soon
I’ll take your hand
and we’ll walk to the pond.

Careful where you step!
A baby turtle, no bigger than a quarter,
is lumbering toward the pond, too.

When he arrives,
he’ll slip into the water
to forage for algae
and insects.

When we arrive,
we’ll sit on the bank
keeping our eyes peeled.
Maybe he’ll climb onto a log
to bask in the warm sun
after his meal.

Or maybe a heron will alight
on the pond’s far edge,
where the brook flows in.
You’ll grow restless
as she tiptoes on her stick-like legs,
uncurling her slender neck,
thrusting her bill
into the murky water,
aiming for a fish.

Time for lunch? you wonder.
Time for lunch, I nod.

Hand in hand,
we’ll leave the pond.
Someday soon.

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2020

Previous “News From the Natural World” poems:

April 17: The Red Chair
April 16: Dear Venus
April 15: Listen
April 14: Ode to a Tide Pool
April 11: What Does A Bird’s Egg Know?
April 10: Clusters of Clover
April 9: Song of the Pink Moon
April 8: Jewel of the Jungle
April 5: Phantom of the Forest
April 4: To Build a Nest
April 3: Apple Cake
April 2: Specimen
April 1: Forest Snail

 

News From the Natural World: Poetry Friday Edition

Welcome to the Poetry Friday edition of News From the Natural World, my National Poetry Month project. Be sure to visit my friend and critique group partner, Molly Hogan, at Nix the Comfort Zone for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Today’s poem was inspired by the photo below, taken on March 20th, just after our quarantine began. I was quite surprised to see this at the end of a driveway I pass by when I go out for a walk. I still have no idea why it was there, but I knew immediately that I had to write about it. However, finding the right form wasn’t easy.

Yesterday, poet, teacher, and mentor extraordinaire, Georgia Heard, posted this video on Facebook. The poem she shares, “Where Do I Find Poetry,” is one of my favorites. As soon as she started reading it, my mind went back to this red chair and I knew I’d found a way in. A greeting card by British artist Rachel Grant provided me with the first line. Thank you to the owner of the red chair, Georgia, and Rachel, for helping me with this poem.

The Red Chair

It begins here,
in a red chair
at the edge of a field
still wearing its stubbly
brown winter coat.

Sit. Be patient…
Watch the last bits of snow
dissolve into the quickening earth.
See grass slowly turn green
and vermilion tips of peonies
poke their heads up through
the softening ground.

Stay a while.
Soon robins will be cruising the field
searching for fat pink worms
and tufts of dried grass to line their nests. 

Feel March winds ease
into warm April breezes
that coax daffodils and dandelions
to shine like a thousand suns
under spring’s clear blue sky,
and seep into
your winter-weary soul.

It begins here.

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2020

Previous “News From the Natural World” poems:

April 16: Dear Venus
April 15: Listen
April 14: Ode to a Tide Pool
April 11: What Does A Bird’s Egg Know?
April 10: Clusters of Clover
April 9: Song of the Pink Moon
April 8: Jewel of the Jungle
April 5: Phantom of the Forest
April 4: To Build a Nest
April 3: Apple Cake
April 2: Specimen
April 1: Forest Snail