Poetry Friday: Consumption

For the past month, I have been consumed by poetry. Constantly, I am thinking about it, writing with words that rhyme or follow a cadence in my head. Poetry. The imaginative craft of writing where words create images and emotions and depth of life. And, while I am grateful, it has been such an odd experience.

For I have no formal training as a writer. Educated, I am. At first degreed in the sciences of nursing and child health. Instead, my call was to attend to nature. Subsequently, and more recently, degreed again to learn the ways of preserving and conserving our earth. For whom? Our children. The degrees, although disparate, do work contiguously and collaboratively together. For what is more important to our childrens’ health than a healthy world, a healthy earth? Nothing.

Without training but with a love for words and a love for creating, it is a void within my soul that poetry fills. So, I pursue it like a need for water in the parched desert sand.

As with most of my interests in life, my quest to write poetry comes at a cost. The cost is to write poems as best as I can. This feeds the consumption and compulsion to write. I search for texts that will teach me the ways of a poet. Few, I have found.

Within the last year, as an environmental educator working at the time of Mary Oliver’s death, I was asked numerous times about her poetry. Did I read it? Do I know it? Which poem of hers is my favorite? Other than knowing hers was the name of a famous American Poet, I knew nothing. I felt ashamed as my inquirers looked at me with incredulousness. How can an environmentally connected person not know Oliver? Ah, I know why – I was educated not in the arts but in the sciences. These are not mutually exclusive, I know, but a reason none-the-less.

Recently, this shame drove me to seek Oliver’s work. At the same time, as mentioned above, I was seeking texts to explain to me some (any) of the rules of poetry. A quick visit to the bookstore last week led me to purchase Oliver’s, A Poetry Handbook (1994).

While reading, it was unenjoyable. I felt I was in a stern college professor’s classroom where no one’s poetry would be acceptable. There are rules for poetry but the enforcement of the rules are lax and arbitrary. This is fortunate for a not so talented poet such as myself. But still, reading the text did not make me like Oliver, I am sorry to say. She seemed harsh and judgmental in her tone and guidance. Still, there were bits and pieces I could relate to as a teacher of words – using mentor texts to model poetry, connecting students to the small, awe-inspiring pieces of nature that surround us each day, and practicing to become better at poetry (or, anything for that matter).

Today, I sought to find some of her poems. Since despite reading her handbook, I still had not read her “nature” poetry or anything other than this handbook that she wrote. I found a website, literary-arts.org/archive/maryoliver, that offered a poetry reading from Oliver herself in early 2008.

After listening to Oliver for only 11 minutes of the broadcast, I was struck with not only her gift as a poet, but more importantly her sense of humor as a person. I would highly recommend listening to the broadcast, especially since it is poet, herself, you are hearing.

My consumption continues. Last night, I read Frost and a few words from William Wordsworth. As with any writing, reading informs. The words are consumed, continuing to nourish my poetry.

I still find it odd. But, welcome.

Today is Poetry Friday! Our host for this week’s round up is Susan Bruck at Soul Blossom Living. Thank you for hosting, Susan! For more inspiring poetry please visit her page.

The poetry I’ve been reading: Addonizio, K. & Laux, D. (1997). The Poet’s Companion. A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry.

The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry

Robert Frost, (1959). You Come Too. Favorite Poems for Readers of all ages.

Mary Oliver, (1994). The Poetry Handbook.

Vardell, S. & Wong, J. (2020). Hop to It: Poems to Get You Moving.

14 thoughts

  1. Your honesty – so refreshing and poignant. One doesn’t have to be formally trained (have a degree?) in writing to be powerful, which you are, with words that strike deep and true. Everyone finds their way in response to the Muse and the paths are different. I wanted to pursue an MFA in writing and it hasn’t come to pass – maybe it never will – but the point is keep writing, out of sheer love for it, in response to its calling. It’s training you, itself. Fascinated by your response to Oliver’s handbook – I haven’t read it – but I have her Devotions by my bedside and often return to it for respite and guidance. Thank you for courageously sharing your truths and for sharing the poetry treasures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I so agree about the degree. I think my own drive to study poetry, read, and write will be informative and educational. I was afraid to write that I did not like Oliver’s handbook, so I looked for something (the webcast) to redeem her. The poetry reading was entertaining. Her sense of humor was endearing and made me like her more! I have been looking on Amazon at her compilations and Devotions was one of the books I was considering. I like the idea of being able to turn to a book for respite and guidance, as you so aptly put it. Thanks for your comments! Take care, Fran!


  2. Thank you for sharing your journey as a poet. I have Mary Oliver’s book Rules for the Dance–it’s been sitting on my shelf for several years, but I haven’t read it. And I am going to use your words as my new definition for a poet–Someone who has a love of words and a love of creating. Thanks, too, for reminding me that poetry is inside us and all around.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Carol, thank you for your link to Oliver’s poems. I love the podcast and the way that Mary Oliver reads her nature poetry. I enjoyed reading your conversation with Fran H. I was considering to get my Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. One of my professors was working with me toward that goal. Then, he told me that one has to create a collection of poems to be published. At the young age of almost 21, I could not imagine being able to do so. Concerned about my skill, I let my fear rule and I did not move beyond my comfort zone. I turned to a couple of degrees as a reading specialist instead. From that time on, I read and wrote voraciously and now feel comfortable trying out new formats.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carol – two things. One, I thought I responded to this comment last week. BUT, we were at our cabin and the wifi is not reliable (actually, we use a hot spot there) so while I thought I posted a comment in return. It is not showing that. I am sorry. I will reply! I am so grateful for your support of my writing and enjoyed hearing of your own journey. The second question is more pressing…Is there a host for Poetry Friday this week? I went to the blog listed on KidsLit and there is no round-up and in fact, no post since June. If you know where we are supposed to link to, please let me know. I’m sorry I’m relying on you for this information but could not seem to find anything when I searched on my own. Thanks!


    2. Now, I’ll respond to your comment. I am so sorry it took me this long (see my prior response). It’s amazing when we look back and are able to see what shapes us. When I went to college, I had two choices -nursing and teaching. Veteran and tenured teachers were being laid off so I chose nursing. I went on to get a Master’s in Child Health that allowed me to practice as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and subsequently, I obtained National Certification in that field. But, the fit never felt right. In 2018, after 13 years of teaching as an informal environmental educator, I got another Master’s degree in Natural Resources with a focus in Environmental Education. The two degrees do work well together. But, that said, a common theme throughout my life has been a love of the written word. I am in a great place, being able to pursue what I love and squeeze in some teaching when we are not having a pandemic! I think your point about reading voraciously is valid. And, writing everyday (for me) is esssential. I’d never be 21 again. How about you? Thanks, Carol. Again, I appreciate your support!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s