Is spring filling you with inspiration and making you want to discover some of the best books with nature poems? Then this post is for you!
I began writing poetry in my twenties when I was doing environmental studies at Stirling University. At the weekends I often went hillwalking in the Scottish Highlands with friends. Inspired by the majestic scenery, I picked up a copy of Wordsworth and began reading poetry for the first time since my English degree. Soon after, I began to write my own poems.
When I got a job in South Wales I started sending poems to magazines such as Orbis and The New Welsh Review. Coming downstairs one Saturday morning to find a letter accepting three poems in the latter – along with a payment of £60! – was one of the best moments of my life. It gave a massive boost to my confidence as a writer.
A few weeks ago, I was approached by new book recommendation website Shepherd to share my favourite books on subjects I write about. I created my five favourites for ghost mysteries, books with portals for children and young adults – and for poetry books with nature poems that make you think and feel. I write all kinds of poetry, but I particularly love poems about the nature and landscapes of Britain.
So why not check out my list here, which includes books by awesome poets including Ted Hughes, Alice Oswald, Sherry Ross and Barbara Lennox.
And you can always check out my own collections if you love nature poetry:
It’s National Poetry Day here in the UK so here’s All, the opening poem in my collection The Things We Thought Were Beautiful, and a couple of poetry book recommendations.
And here’s the two fantastic independently published poetry books that I want to flag up, which both mean a great deal to me. With excerpts from my 5⭐ reviews of each, they are:
US poet Sherry Lazarus Ross’s Seeds of the Pomegranate:
“I loved ‘Touch Me’, in which the poet asks ‘How many times can the earth / withstand this ritual. The pain of being frozen / then thawed out.’ But as ever throughout this collection of dark and light, spring is the wake-up call coming ‘soft as the turn of earthworms.’ Just one more of the many stunning images in this wonderful book, already a favourite on my shelf.”
Scottish poet Barbara Lennox’s The Ghost in the Machine:
“It deals with themes of the natural world, myths, science and the human condition. There is a sense of living at a mid-point, a delicate balance of ‘trying to return, but never quite arriving.’ The poet has a beautiful turn of phrase, using alliterative language that reminds me of Seamus Heaney: ‘From every slope there rings/ a rush and purl of streams/ pocked by peat-dark tarns’.”
The best poetry has an almost magical power to transform our relationship with ourselves and the natural world. Please check out these collections by clicking the links below, where you can also read my full reviews. And just… read as many poems as you can today!
“It’s not just that Jocelyn was contrary, she loved a fight, and was a good sparring partner. It’s that she seemed to me the opposite of just about anybody else I ever met.” – John Merivale’s Eulogy for Jocelyn, 23 September 2014
I can’t tell you how stunned I was to receive this piece of treasure in the post the other day:
Jocelyn Merivale, as regular readers of this blog may know, was a painter and friend, whose fabulous work inspired some of my poems in Up in the Air.
I got to know Jocelyn through her husband, John, with whom I worked for several years in Wimbledon and Morden. She died in 2014, tragically young, but carried on working right up until the end.
John set about producing a book to collect all of the paintings, sketches, and sculptures produced by his lifelong partner. He worked with Matthew Hollow, an art photographer, Martin Holman, an art historian, and Brother, a brand design agency. It was a true labour of love, much of it carried out during the enforced solitude of the coronavirus lockdown.
And look at the result:
I had been so looking forward to seeing this book. And the icing on the cake was the use of several of my poems, produced after I visited an Open House exhibition of Jocelyn’s work in Merton.
Scroll down to see my poems and the paintings they relate to, as well as the painting Jocelyn did for my wife and me on our wedding day. (Click on the images of the poems to read them more easily).
And here’s the beautiful painting that Jocelyn produced for our wedding:
To buy a copy of the Jocelyn Merivale book (£45 plus P&P) please contact John Merivale: firstname.lastname@example.org
To purchase a copy of my poetry book Up in the Air, click below:
It’s been a while since I’ve done a poetry video for my blog so, with Easter and spring and a smidgen of hope in the air, here’s a new one – Charlie Comes to the Mountain. I wrote it last year when we went to the Brecon Beacons in South Wales and took a family hike up Hay Bluff. It was a gorgeous day, baking hot, and there was a boy racing up the mountain, leaving his anxious siblings behind. I’d had the last line of the poem in my head for a long time, but it found its home in Charlie. Have a good Easter.
This is a new poem, so not in any collection yet – but click below if you want to find out more about my previous poetry books:
I’m excited to announce that The Things We Thought Were Beautiful is out now on Amazon!
The Things We Thought Were Beautiful is my second book of poetry. It includes poems on our changing feelings and connection to nature and the world around us, the beauty and strangeness of travel, and the places we look for meaning. Poems explore the challenges of living without love, as well as the redemption of home and family.
Here’s a taster:
These are some of the things readers said about Up in the Air, my first collection:
“Beautiful and thought-provoking collection of poems that speak of life, death, love and nature…” Amazon UK
“I love this book. I keep it at my bedside to read a passage or two before getting up to start my day or at night before the lights go out.” Amazon.com
Order your copy now:
Note – this link is to the paperback – you need to search in the Kindle store for the ebook as it takes a few days for the formats to link.
I’m currently working on the final draft of my second poetry book, “The Things We Thought Were Beautiful”. Like “Up in the Air”, I’ve divided this one up into sections, the first of which is called “Another World”. The poems in this section focus on the natural world and our desire to see more deeply into it.
One of my favourite poems is Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”, in which he talks of what the eye and ear ‘half create, and what perceive.’ I’ve always loved that line. It’s as if there really is a transcendent value in nature that we can grasp, or “perceive”.
But when Wordsworth talks about us “creating” it, is that in the sense of making it real – or just us making it up? And how do we know which bits are our own creation, and which bits are real? The true reality behind reality – if there is such a thing – can only ever be understood, or felt, in glimpses. Poetry is one of the best ways of having those glimpses.
To read more about why I love Wordsworth, check out this post.
I’ve been really pleased by the reception of my first poetry book, Up in the Air, which reached the top ten in Amazon’s ‘Inspirational Poetry’ bestsellers category.
I wrote a post about how I started writing poems here. I mentioned it was climbing Scottish mountains and reading William Wordsworth that kickstarted my love for poetry. But citing Wordsworth as an inspiration is hardly hip these days. So I thought I’d tell you why I like him. Then, hopefully, you will too.
There are three reasons I love Wordsworth:
#1 His Idealism
As a young man in the 1790s, Wordsworth travelled on the continent and was excited by the fresh ideals of the politics he discovered. He believed passionately in the French Revolution, that there would be a new dawn of equality and liberty for all humankind. Unfortunately it was followed by the Reign of Terror and Wordsworth ultimately retreated, disillusioned, to his private sanctuary in the Lake District. I’ve got a feeling quite a few of us would like to do that these days.
#2 His Poetry
Obviously. Wordsworth created some of the most inspired and memorable lines in the English language. Look at these for instance:
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!
That best portion of a good man’s life,
His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.
Come forth into the light of things, Let nature be your teacher.
With an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.
#3 Above all, his love of, respect for, and insight into Nature
As one of the greatest Romantic poets, Wordsworth described the inner life and value of Nature like no other:
And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.
Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear, – both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.
He understood the mysterious interplay that our thoughts, our minds, have with Nature. Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey is my favourite poem, and I think the lines about what the eye and ear ‘half create, and what percieve’ is a revelation.
I often re-read Wordsworth’s poems, when I arrive in the mountains, or see a new, inspiring landscape. We can never be sure about the inner life of Nature, the force that through the green fuse drives the flower as Dylan Thomas called it, and what our part in it is. But many of us believe that there is something really there beyond dim, blind, mechanics. And we see that, in a semi-objective, semi-imaginative way, we are not only created by it, but have a mysterious role in creating the world ourselves.
Interested in finding out about my poetry? Go here.