There are two types of nature poets: those who use nature to comfort, and those who use it to scare. Nature can do both.

Nature poets must realize that we—the humans, the poets—don’t call the shots.  Nature does.

We always think of Ted Hughes when we think of a nature poet who makes nature scary.

As far as the other kind of nature poet, we usually think of Thoreau, who has a certain poetry in his diaries, or, of course, Wordsworth.

Love nature, you silly humans, is what the typical bombastic, tedious, boring, sentimental nature poet does, and, if we equate God and nature, which we can easily do, we include the priests.

Wordsworth is duller than Byron, Shelley, and Keats, because this is what he does sometimes.

Shakespeare can’t be called a nature poet; in the Sonnets, Shakespeare says, Since I love you, respect nature.

According to Shakespeare, nature does two things: it kills and it reproduces.  Nature is not a comfort to Shakespeare, but a prod.

Nature, for the old priests, and the old poets who write of death, is a prod of God.

For nature poets like Mary Oliver, nature is God, our comfort and salvation.

Mary Oliver takes on the role for herself of what she perceives nature to be, a very kind mother, and she comforts us with these words:

You do not have to be good.

The other poet in this contest, Charles Hayes, loves nature, too; he published a book on saving the Hudson river.

But we were just looking for good lines of poetry for March Madness, and we liked this by Charles Hayes for its compression and drama:

Her sweaty driver knows his load his fair.

It has a certain chivalrous pathos that we like.

It doesn’t have a moral.

File it under, “You don’t have to be good.”

Good versus fair.

Now that’s a contest.




  1. maryangeladouglas said,

    April 6, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Leaving aside the lines of the poems you have chosen I just want to remind you a little of Psalm 91 in my view and even I wasn’t a Christian in my view the epitome of poetry that searches the face of Nature for the face of God. Silly, bombastic, tedious it is not nor could ever be not that you have said this as quite simply you left the psalms out of your glancing remarks concerning nature poetry.

    Reading this Psalm, saying this outloud as a child I WANTED to be good to somehow deserve those sunsets and the words of the Psalm build naturally toward that aspiration as the heart’s sole desire.

    I cannot understand your viewpoint in this essay at all. It has nothing to do with priests that we see God in nature and everything to do with beauty, even the things which cause us fear and make us afraid have a certain majesty about them and about this, Shakespeare in all his plays especially perhaps King Lear, was deeply, deeply conscious.

    PSALM 19

    19 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

    2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

    3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

    4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,

    5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.

    6 His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

    7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

    8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

    9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

    10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

    11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

    12 Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.

    13 Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

    14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

    King James Version (KJV)

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      April 6, 2016 at 6:15 pm



      • maryangeladouglas said,

        April 7, 2016 at 3:02 am

        Thank you so much Tom. By the way beautiful painting. I could look at it for hours there’s so much peace in it.

        • maryangeladouglas said,

          April 7, 2016 at 3:05 am

          And I like very much what you said about Mary Oliver and I in fact like Mary Oliver’s poems consistently they are serene like leaves are, ferns, rocks, clouds. Beautiful poems. I probably should have written that first as I realize whoever wrote the Psalms would not be here now and so would not be included in the tournament but I guess I was riffing on your riffing. And ridiculously that tapped into my commercial memory bank of “ruffles have ridges’ and now I will lament the lack of sour cream potato chips in the house.

          • maryangeladouglas said,

            April 8, 2016 at 3:10 am

            BUT THE SNOWS…

            how are the shadows so plum coloured
            I wondered always looking out on the yard
            or out the windows of a childhood lengthening

            into fire, the scattered stars. a thirst for God.

            how is it possible and that the day feels
            gold edged to me and in the fall I dream
            in the colours of apples and feel this

            freshness every day. I know I lived in that country.
            forgetting the news. observing snowfalls as
            if I were made of lace the moment they came down.

            all this is besides the point they murmured to me underground.
            but the snows kept gliding
            and the light

            gilded my hands.

            mary angela douglas 8 april 2016

    • Andrew said,

      April 8, 2016 at 1:25 pm

      Psalm 19 is one of my favorite psalms. Thank you for posting it.

      The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. [Ps. 19:7]

      To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. [Isaiah 8:20]

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