Nature Poetry in Unnatural Times

The earth changes
The way we speak to each other has changed
As for a long while we stood in a hall full of exits
Listening for a landscape beyond us

—Joanna Klink
  
What does it mean to live in a world of grass and concrete, birdsong and the sounds of demolition, mangoes and Cheetos? Nature poetry might seem quaint in a world in which nature is constantly transmuted or grafted over, yet we still—as our ancestors did—mediate and negotiate our relationships with each other, the cosmos and what we think of as our “inner nature” against the imagery, metaphors and sensorial richness of the natural world. While the pastorals of the Greeks and Romantics often idealized nature as a site of tranquil, recuperative innocence, obscuring the socioeconomic realities of rural life, we’ll work to unleash the subversive potential of truly attending to nature’s rhythms and alterity. In this seven-week, online workshop, we’ll explore how writing pastoral, post-pastoral or even anti-pastoral poetry can help us articulate the intensity and complexity of our ongoing fraught relationship to the sublimity, intricacy and creative/destructive force of nature. We’ll make room for awe in the face of natural phenomena, rewild our language of landscape and explore what it means to be a part of nature yet uneasy with human ownership and exploitation. Readings will include poems by W.S. Merwin, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Suji Kwock Kim, Tiana Clark, Jamaal May, Ada Limón, Seema Yasmin and more. Each week we’ll read and discuss a sampling of poems and workshop one another’s poems, offering attentive, considered feedback. Class sessions will meet synchronously via Zoom every Wednesday, and assignments, poems and critiques will be shared via Wet Ink.

Workshop Details

 

dawn lonsinger is the author of Whelm— winner of the Idaho Prize in Poetry, Cornell’s Freund Prize, and a Shelf Unbound Notable Book of the Year. Her poems have appeared in the American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Guernica, Los Angeles Review and elsewhere. Lyric essays have appeared in Black Warrior Review and Western Humanities Review. She is the recipient of the Corson Bishop Prize, Smartish Pace’s Beullah Rose Prize, a Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets Fellowship and a Fulbright Fellowship to South Korea. She has also won the Scowcroft Prize, an Academy of American Poets Prize, three Utah Arts Council Writing Awards and four Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prizes. lonsinger holds a BA in studio art and English as well as an MA in literature from Bucknell University, an MFA in poetry from Cornell University and a PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Utah. She is an associate professor of literature and creative writing at Muhlenberg College, where she was recently awarded the the Paul C. Empie ’29 Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching.