In my posts this summer, I’ve introduced or reminded you of several naturalists:
Maria Sibylla Merian and Titian Ramsay Peale II whose rediscovered nature illustrations have perhaps inspired you to go exploring with a sketchbook in hand.
Beatrix Potter, whose children’s books are familiar to us all, but perhaps not her lifelong interest in nature, and who may be inspiring you to write stories about the creatures you’ve seen and studied this summer.
All three of these naturalists studied plants and creatures right where they lived.
And so did poet, Aileen Fisher (1906-2002), who wrote books of poetry for children, mostly about the nature all around us. Fisher grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, received a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and received many awards for her poetry. Eventually she settled in Colorado.
You can find some of her books at libraries, and lots of them are available from second hand suppliers through Amazon. Fisher’s poetry is in many anthologies, and some of her books have been re-released in recent years with new illustrations.
Here’s a poem by Aileen Fisher from her book, Out in the Dark and Daylight, published in 1980.
I sat as still
as a playing-dead possum
and watched a bee
on a clover blossom,
Watched him poking
his long thin tongue
into the blossoms
pink and young,
Heard him bumble
and sort of sneeze
as pollen stuck
to his two hind knees.
I held my breath
as the bee buzzed over,
and hoped I didn’t
look sweet as clover.
Can you find two comparisons in the poem?
Yes, “still as a playing-dead possum” and “sweet as clover.” Comparisons help to create pictures for the reader. A comparison of two things using the words like or as is called a simile.
In the same poem are two examples of another type of figurative language. These are words that imitate sounds, such as clunk, thud, boom, cheep. Even the name of this type of word sounds wonderful! Onomatopoeia.
What 2 words does Fisher use in this poem that imitate sounds? Yes, bumble and buzzed.
Poetry also often rhymes and has some rhythm. Aileen Fisher is a master at both of these. Here’s another poem from the same book.
Did you ever see
a cricket’s ears
stick out upon his head?
You certainly didn’t
since they grow
below his knees instead.
It’s good he doesn’t
put stockings on
and cover his knees up tight,
or how could he hear
the songs he sings
night after autumn night?
Now it’s your turn to write some nature poems.
Choose a plant, a place, weather, or a creature or two that you’d like to write about
- Brainstorm all the ways you’d describe your subject. Include how they look—furry, scaly, feathery, colors, etc. How they move (even plants move as they follow the sun or blow in the wind). Where they live and what that looks like. What they eat and how they catch it. What is dangerous for them. Anything you learned from your research. Remember to think of sounds and smells, and how something might feel
- Think of how you could turn some of these descriptive words into rhymes, similes, or onomatopoeia.
- If you’re familiar with other forms of figurative language, such as alliteration, metaphors, or personification, you can try those, too, but it’s probably best to stick to just a few types of figurative language in any one poem. And your poem doesn’t even have to rhyme. Lots don’t!
- Here are some of my brainstorming thoughts organized into a couple poems. These two poetry forms might help you organize your thoughts also.
A concrete poem follows the shape of your subject or an action. Draw your shape on one piece of paper and darken it so it can be seen through another paper. Lay the second sheet over the drawing, and write your poem along those lines. When you remove the paper, you’ll have a poem in the shape you originally drew. Mine follows Molly’s lying-down shape!
In a “name” poem, each letter of your subject, such as sunflower, is used as the beginning letter of each line of your poem. Each line tells something about the subject.
Sunshine on my shelf
blUe delft dishes shining
Now filling every field
Fuzzy brown centers
Lining dusty roadsides
gOlden pollen grains raining down
Windblown but still blazing
Everyone snapping photos
biRds feasting on sunflower seeds
I bet you can do a lot better, and I hope you’ll send in a poem so I can post some on this blog.
Here’s Molly getting up close with a painted butterfly last autumn. That butterfly didn’t stick around long!!
You don’t want to miss the next Picture Lady post, which will help connect our summer nature studies with some thoughts from God’s Word. So be sure to sign up.
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Hi, Kathy, how refreshing to read these posts. Thanks so much for sharing your teaching and observations. Avis
You’re welcome, Avis! I have really enjoyed exploring and posting about my neighborhood this summer. Glad you’ve liked it.