The natural world is an oft-explored concept in poetry — although not as much as it once was when we were still exploring the New World. But there have been bursts of new nature poems published in the last few decades as the extent of the danger of man-made climate change has become more apparent. Many writers feel close to nature and find that speaking to what they know comes easier when exploring.
One of our favorites is a simple poem by Katherine Riegel called “What I Would Like To Grow In My Garden.”
Peonies, heavy and pink as ’80s bridesmaid dresses
and scented just the same. Sweet pea,
because I like clashing smells and the car
I drove in college was named that: a pea-green
Datsun with a tendency to backfire.
Sugar snap peas, which I might as well
call memory bites for how they taste like
being fourteen and still mourning the horse farm
I had been uprooted from at ten.
Also: sage, mint, and thyme—the clocks
of summer—and watermelon and blue lobelia.
Lavender for the bees and because I hate
all fake lavender smells. Tomatoes to cut
and place on toasted bread for BLTs, with or without
the b and the l. I’d like, too, to plant
the sweet alyssum that smells like honey and peace,
and for it to bloom even when it’s hot,
and also lilies, so I have something left
to look at when the rabbits come.
They always come. They are
always hungry. And I think I am done
protecting one sweet thing from another.
Riegel’s work is a testament to simplistic writing — while it doesn’t always work the way we expect, it can evoke truly beautiful emotions when it does. In only a few lines, she reminds us of what it is like to nibble on fresh vegetables, smell colorful flowers, or watch cuddly animals try to invade the sanctity of the backyard garden.