National Poetry Month: Writing Wild, Day 10

At the beginning of her Pulitzer-Prize winning book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974), Annie Dillard states that “the world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand.” The entire book is Dillard’s account of her search for those “unwrapped gifts and free surprises” around her home in Southern Virginia.

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I have always loved the gifts and surprises nature leaves everywhere for us. And so I have always loved Dillard’s rich writing, detailing her journeys into what Kathryn Aalto describes as “the seen and the unseen–into the soulful side of being human.” (p. 110) Deciding on how to structure a poem inspired by her was a tall order. A found poem seemed a logical option, but my copy of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is packed away somewhere while our renovation continues. Also, the choice of lines would be overwhelming. I decided to take a walk through the woods behind my house hoping that inspiration would strike. The result is a how-to poem inspired by a line from Dillard’s poem, “A Natural History of Getting Through The Year,” which was inspired by the diary of a “19th century naturalist from Staunton, Virginia.”

“Plan of Nature Study for April”

Walk quietly into the woods;
they are still waking up.
Tread softly on paths the deer
keep open all year.

Pause on a moss-covered rock.
Notice the carpet of oak leaves,
littered with acorn caps, 
at your feet.

Watch as a bee buzzes hopefully 
around eager bursts of green
stretching toward
the strengthening sun.

Listen to the drumming
of a woodpecker echoing
from the far ridge.

Continue around the pond,
where frogs and turtles bask.
Pass a tree stripped of its bark.  
Try to interpret the hieroglyphs
left by a long-gone invader.

Wonder at the broad leaves
of the skunk cabbage, 
spring’s standard-bearers,
proclaiming the season’s

Draft © 2021, Catherine Flynn

Previous Writing Wild posts:

Day 1: Dorothy Wordsworth
Day 2: Susan Fenimore Cooper
Day 3: Gene Stratton-Porter
Day 4: Mary Austin
Day 5: Vita Sackville-West
Day 6: Nan Shepherd
Day 7: Rachel Carson
Day 8: Mary Oliver
Day 9: Carolyn Merchant

21 thoughts on “National Poetry Month: Writing Wild, Day 10

  1. First, your post sent me on an Annie Dillard hunt. Her name was so familiar, but the exact reason was unclear. I have some more work to do here. Then your poem made me want to put on my hiking shoes and hit the trails. Of course, it’s still dark here. Ha! Soon, however, soon.

    Thankfully I was able to walk with you in the woods to view the oak leaves, see the bees, and hear the woodpecker.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read Annie Dilliard’s work in a long time but now, like Cathy, you’ve made me search for what I have, to leaf through again. My students and I studied nature writing & hers were favorite texts. You’ve emulated her well by those simple wonderments seen as you walked, also including good information like “of the skunk cabbage, /spring’s standard-bearers,”. I’d love to take that walk with you, but with your poem, at least I can imagine it! Happy Sunday!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I so appreciate you taking me on this walk with you, Catherine. The worn deer paths, the oak blanket, the bees buzzing and woodpeckers drumming— the view was splendid from beginning to end.

    Liked by 1 person

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