Lake-Related Poetry Collections for Lakes Appreciation Month
July is Lakes Appreciation Month, sponsored by the North American Lake Management Society. It’s easy to see why this month falls in July—from lakeside Fourth of July barbecues to summer camping trips, lakes provide the setting for many iconic summer memories. They also play a prominent role in poetry. In fact, some of the most famous poets throughout history came to be known as the Lake Poets, a nod to their lives and writing careers in the Lake District of England. These four collections help you celebrate this enduring connection between poetry and the water. They’re perfect to read on the dock, with your feet dipped into the lake nearest to you.
One of the original Lake Poets, William Wordsworth’s connection to the lake is so well-known that a riff on his name even shows up in Taylor Swift’s beloved song “The Lakes.” If, like Taylor, you long to go to “the lakes where the poets went to die,” The Collected Poems of William Wordsworth will offer the perfect dose of escapism. Wordsworth’s poetry emphasizes the ordinary and the pastoral, showing how the lake, the trees, and other natural imagery colored his daily life.
While Wordsworth’s vision of the lake may be relaxing and solitary, Wherever I’m At: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry contrasts this by depicting the lake as a bustling, communal site. Bringing together the work of 160 Chicago writers and artists, the anthology takes readers across the world-class city, but multiple poems reference Lake Michigan specifically. The lake stands out as a gathering place, an oasis, and even a political symbol in these diverse poems that blend city and nature.
Mary Oliver’s poetry has garnered many fans and is among the most frequently cited poetry on social media, due in part to her unrivaled ability to find sacredness, inspiration, and significance in everyday routine and in small moments. Much of her poetry unfolds outside, and in particular near the water. Dogs also influenced Oliver’s poetry, with dogs serving as companions to her throughout her life. In the aptly titled Dog Poems, Oliver visits the lake and other sites with her dog, endowing these familiar places with an adventurous, eager sense of beginner’s mind.
“The riptides you fear will take your life are the currents carrying you into mine,” Amanda Torroni writes in the opening pages of Stargazing at Noon. Throughout this collection, which took inspiration from the cycles of the moon, Torroni turns to the lake again and again as an ideal place to take in the stars and contemplate universal themes. Through both grounded, earthly imagery and celestial allusions, Torroni reckons with love, heartbreak, body image, and self-doubt as she looks to the ancient, ever-changing world around her for perspective.
Looking for more water-related poetry tips? Check out our recent post on how to channel your inner coastal grandma through poetry.