Nature Poetry Writing Workshop
by Cynthia Sharp
Whiteboard, whiteboard markers, dry erase eraser, copies of the lesson and worksheets for each participant, pictures of local scenery, vocabulary words written on flashcards that convey meaning through pictures and colour translated into participants' first language when possible, baskets of local sensory items, such as: bamboo, bark, beeswax candle, blooms, candlelight, carving, flower, fur, hedgehog, jade, leaf, pinecones, ridges, rock, sage, stone, sweetgrass, turtle, quartz
The instructor welcomes participants. We go around the circle with each person introducing himself or herself. Then, a volunteer reads the opening poem about paying attention to the beauty of nature. The poem is read a few times.
Breathe Deeply Nature’s Inner World
moments in the stillness,
what the moss on the maple tells us,
or each angle of sunlight reveals,
to let the trees and flowers
and colours speak.
There may be discussion about slowing down and relaxing in nice places and observing details. Good writing uses details. We can pretend that parts of nature have a story to tell us and that it’s our job to listen and write it down.
Part 1 Nature Vocabulary – Matching Adjectives to Nouns
In this workshop, we write from all our senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. To get started, examine objects from nature in the baskets and find adjectives to describe them. There are many different correct answers! Participants may draw lines connecting adjectives with nouns. They may add their own words too.
coarse, cool, furry, grainy, honey-scented, jagged, large, light, medium-sized, ocean-washed, pink, prickly, rose, round, salty, small, smooth, soft, sun-warmed, tiny, warm
bamboo, bark, beeswax candle, blooms, candlelight, carving, flower, fur, hedgehog, jade, leaf, pinecones, ridges, rock, sage, stone, sweetgrass, turtle, quartz
example: prickly pinecones
Part 2 Good writing uses adjectives and nouns from as many senses as possible. We will make notes together to describe a place. The phrases and vocabulary from above, along with new ideas are all welcome.
example: “ocean-washed stones” could go into the sight category for the beach
The instructor fills out the columns below on a whiteboard, while participants take notes.
extra adjectives: crowded, empty, moonlit, tranquil, wet
extra nouns: moon, moonlight, reflection, sand, seawall, shore, waves
extra adjectives: earthy
extra nouns: lookout, trails
Trees are often part of the sights and smells: birch, cedar, maple, pine
Now, we will use the images to create a poem. We’ll choose our favourite images, add adjectives, and arrange the word pictures in a nice order to become a poem. If a word or idea doesn’t fit, we can leave it out, or turn it into a simile, which is a phrase using “like” or “as”.
Examples: like the wind on a holiday weekend, as soft as a baby hedgehog’s fur
Waves invite me to play,
like the wind on a holiday weekend,
the breeze as soft as a baby hedgehog’s fur.
Part 3 Your Personal Poem from a Favourite Place
Think of a beautiful place you like to be.
example: Stanley Park
Write the name of the place:
The instructor leads a meditation asking questions about the favourite place. Each participant listens quietly, either answering the questions on paper, or just listening. The goal is to imagine the beautiful place and think of adjectives and nouns to use in a poem.
How do you feel in that place?
examples: relaxed, peaceful, free
How you feel in the place is the mood, or feeling of your poem.
Imagine yourself in this place.What time of day is it? Is it morning, noon, afternoon, evening, night?
What do you see?
Do you see any animals? Squirrels, chipmunks, seals, otters? Deer? Eagles?
What do we learn from them?
Keep breathing and looking around your beautiful place. What colour are the flowers? When you touch the grass or sand, how does it feel? Is it warm? Cool? Refreshing? Soft?
What do you like about this place?
examples: clean air, trees, the feeling of the wind
What does the wind tell you?
examples: breathe, relax, be
Fill in details from the picture or memory you are describing:
Now, you will turn your images and details above into a poem! Choose your favourite words from above and arrange them however you would like. You may add in, take out, or change anything!
Verbs to help with your poem: treasure, remember, appreciate, savour
Your poem goes here or on another piece of paper:
Part 4 Editing (This optional section can be done at home, if time runs out in the workshop.)
When you are finished your poem, you can make it stronger by replacing average words with more beautiful ones:
The names of precious metals, flowers, fruits and desserts make beautiful synonyms for colour:
apricot, peach, tangerine for orange
lavender, lilac, plum for purple
lemon, honey, or golden for yellow
lime, forest green, jade for green
rose for light pink, cherry for dark pink
cream for beige
tan, coffee, chocolate for brown, milk chocolate for light brown, dark chocolate for dark brown
turquoise for sea blue
When you are finished your draft of your poem, you may hand it in to the instructor, who will make suggestions to improve grammar, punctuation and flow. If there is time in the workshop, each participant will read his or her poem to the group.
Note: This lesson is designed for the landscape of Vancouver, Canada. Instructors may want to adapt vocabulary to their own locations.