Imagine Nature is a showcase of electronic broadsides devoted to nature poets and their work. Exploring the convergence of poetry, graphic arts, and the technology of the internet, this site updates the concept of poetry broadsides with multi-media imagery and sound. Readings by Stanley Kunitz and Galway Kinnell available with their respective poems reflect the collaborative effort of this collection. Also included are poems by Stanley Kunitz, Mary Oliver, Galway Kinnell, Michael McClure, Emily Dickinson, John Haines, and David Wagoner.
All summer I heard them
rustling in the shrubbery,
outracing me from tier
to tier in my garden,
a whisper among the viburnums,
a signal flashed from the hedgerow,
a shadow pulsing
in the barberry thicket.
Now that the nights are chill
and the annuals spent,
I should have thought them gone,
in a torpor of blood
slipped to the nether world
before the sickle frost.
In the deceptive balm
of noon, as if defiant of the curse
that spoiled another garden,
these two appear on show
through a narrow slit
in the dense green brocade
of a north-country spruce,
dangling head-down, entwined
in a brazen love-knot.
I put out my hand and stroke
the fine, dry grit of their skins.
we are partners in this land,
co-signers of a covenant.
At my touch the wild
braid of creation
From The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz. W.W. Norton and Co., 2000.
This conversation between Stanley Kunitz and Mark Katzman took place on February 28, 2003, at the Digital Library at the American Museum of Natural History.
MK: What does one learn working in a garden?
SK: Patience above all, patience. And beyond patience one learns to appreciate the beauty of ordinary things in this earth and the magic of growth and survival.
MK: What’s the role of poetry in our culture?
SK: I think the role of poetry in culture is to make us all aware of the richness of experience itself, of the possibilities of examining, studying, and loving all the bearers of life through all the orders of creation. I believe very strongly in the web of creation. I think we are all part of it and if we disturb it at any one point, the whole web trembles.
MK: I know you're the moving force behind the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown as well as Poets House here in New York. What motivated you to put these organizations together?
SK: What propelled me is the experience of my own self as a young man in a world that I felt was unresponsive and neglectful and that above all I felt was alienated from the aspirations of the young and paid little attention to them. I know how much I hungered for companionship and for a supporting word and I resolved that if I was ever in a position to help the young and lost in the world of the arts I would do something about it.
MK: Can poetry be taught?
SK: It cannot be taught to the unresponsive, the uncaring, the unsympathetic heart, mind and soul, but it certainly can be taught, or at least communicated to those who are hungry for the word and who need some sense of destiny and direction.
MK: How was your experience as a Poet Laureate?
SK: What pleased me most was the communication from people who are not poets-- housewives, merchants, young people in school looking toward the future. Those letters were so touching, so real, that I felt it was an answer to those who think of poetry as somehow peripheral of art in the modern world. It is not so; it strikes at the center of human experience. I think that poetry is the voice that can be heard if we listen to it, generation after generation. It's the cry and the song of the human spirit through the centuries and no art has been so expressive of it as poetry.
I thought the earth remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds. I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees. All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing
around me, the insects, and the birds
who do their work in the darkness. All night
I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling
with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
Used with permission from Twelve Moons by Little, Brown and Company. Copyright © 1979 by Mary Oliver.
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.
From A New Selected Poems, Houghton Mifflin Company 2001.
Experience can be said to have inspired the linnet divinely but the song is born from the deep lyric’s grammar located in the flesh inside of my head.
When the meat and fluff drops away and the beak is clean of the touch of the tongue then the home of the song is gone though it still is heard in the forest.
To chant the troubadour must hear the voice of an elder master.
That makes the light that brightens the depths of the skull.
Flutterings transmute to concertos and garbled chatter changes to warbling — the plain blank field become verdure.
Pensive, the white-turbaned sparrow is listening but hears no music when the towhee calls.
It’s a meaningless background to him.
The core of the music is childless if it has no listener — then it’s strange as another planet.
From Antechamber And Other Poems by New Directions, 1978.
The butterfly obtains
But little sympathy
Though favorably mentioned
In Entomology -
Because he travels freely
And wears a proper coat
The circumspect are certain
That he is dissolute -
Had he the homely scutcheon
Of modest Industry
'Twere fitter certifying
For Immortality -
From The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (1924).
Out of the debris of dying stars,
this rain of particles
that waters the waste with brightness...
The sea-wave of atoms hurrying home,
collapse of the giant,
unstable guest who cannot stay...
The sun's heart reddens and expands,
his mighty aspiration is lasting,
as the shell of his substance
one day will be white with frost.
In the radiant field of Orion
great hordes of stars are forming,
just as we see every night,
fiery and faithful to the end.
Out of the cold and fleeing dust
that is never and always,
the silence and waste to come...
This arm, this hand,
my voice, your face, this love.
From The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer, Collected Poems, Graywolf Press, 1996.
Minutes ago, it was dead:
This swamp when I first came
Fell still as if poisoned,
The air expiring, cattails
Bent and brought to nothing
By the motionless air.
Now first the sunfish rising
To touch the undertake
Of the pool, a muttered frog-call,
And out of the willow roots
From crushed stems and stubble
The chap of a marsh wren,
From a thicket a fox sparrow
Taking me in, one eye
At a wary time, where I wait
To be what they want me to be:
Less human. A dragonfly
Burns green at my elbow
From Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems, published by University of Illinois Press, 1999.
This project was led by Tom Moritz, Boeschenstein Director, Library Services. Content was coordinated by Mark Katzman, and designed by Fran Pollitt. This project was made possible with funding by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The original website was last updated in November 2003, viewable through the Wayback Machine, and was migrated to this platform in July 2020.