Poetry and the Environment

Recent poetic approaches to the natural world and ecology.
Illustration of animals in a forest.

The Romantic poets, often writing about beautiful rural landscapes as a source of joy, made nature poetry a popular poetic genre. When writing environmental poems today, contemporary poets tend to write about nature more broadly than their predecessors, focusing more on the negative effects of human activity on the planet. Critic Jay Parini explained in his introduction to Poems for a Small Planet: Contemporary American Nature Poetry, “Nature is no longer the rustic retreat of the Wordsworthian poet. … [it] is now a pressing political question, a question of survival.” Distinct from nature poetry, environmental poetry explores the complicated connections between people and nature, often written by poets who are concerned about our impact on the natural world. Poets today are serving as witnesses to climate change while bringing attention to important environmental issues and advocating for preservation and conservation.

In this collection, we’ve brought together environmental poetry from the past 70 years, from early practitioners of this evolving genre—including Wendell Berry and A.R. Ammons—to the more contemporary ecopoets. We have organized these poems by their approach to subject matter, but as you will see, these divisions are somewhat blurry, since few of these issues can be separated from the others. To suggest further additions, please contact us.

Pollution and Climate Change
Industrialization and Urbanization
Threatened Animals
After Humanity
Audio & Video