Marsh is the New Muse

“When I would recreate myself,
I would seek the darkest wood,
The thickest, most impenetrable swamp.
And I would enter them as sacred places,
As Sanctum Sanctorums.”

—Henry David Thoreau

For the past week, I’ve been on a poetry bender. I can’t stop writing poems. Recently I’ve been writing poems using a collage method:  cut up a few magazine articles, select words and short phrases at random and put them together in new ways to make a poem. Even though I didn’t intend to write poems about wetlands, they creep into my writing anyway. Maybe it has something to do with a mental landscape—wetlands are in my head for the long haul. Here’s a sample stanza from one of my recent collage poems:

But I don’t think we’ve lost
Wilderness, snow cover and stream
The pen reflects a natural cycle, stumbles
A full-body far cry minutes flipping
Too busy with their binoculars, a bizarre dream

(full poem at:

Several environmental organizations have recognized the value of putting poetry together with wetland education. Kids are not only encouraged to explore their local marshes or bogs, but also to write about them, using poetry to describe their experience. For example, Environmental Concern offers a wetland poetry workshop to middle school students. Poems such as “How to Cook a Roasted Swamp” by Kathleen and “Dreams of a Cattail” by Zach. (Last names aren’t provided on the website.) These poems can be found here:  In addition, there are national wetland-themed poetry contests, such as River of Words, an annual youth poetry contest. The 2010 River of Words Watershed Art & Poetry Contest just closed national submissions December 1, 2009.  Some states have wetland poetry contests available through their Departments of Environmental Protection.

For adults, poetry can inspire and bring attention to environmentally sensitive topics such as the effects of Katrina. Maine-based poet Jonathan Skinner’s book of poetry entitled, Wetlands includes a poem called, “A Natural History of Levees,” which can be found online (Not Enough Night)

Poetry can also be another way to discuss wetlands and their value. At the Society of Wetland Scientists joint meeting with Wisconsin Wetlands Association earlier this year (June 2009), there were a couple of poetry workshops in which participants shared their favorite wetland poems. During a similar workshop held by WWA in 2006, participants wrote wetland poems. Some of these are available here:

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