5 Collections to Celebrate the Beauty of National Parks
National parks are prime summer and fall vacation spots. Whether you’re hiking, watching the sunset, or soaking up the sight of a waterfall, visiting a national park stands out as one of the best ways to recharge, explore, and connect with the natural world. Oftentimes, these trips provide a return to relaxed schedules and nightly downtime to devote to your hobbies. Here are five collections to pack in your backpack, so you can indulge both your adventurous side and your poetic side.
1. Ecology II: Throat Song from the Everglades by Anne McCrary Sullivan
“I am always trying to get back to the wild,” nature poet Anne McCrary Sullivan has said of her poetry and writing process. This intention resonates deeply in Ecology II: Throat Song from the Everglades, which offers reflections on the Florida national park from one of the people who knows it best. McCrary has been paddling amidst this marshy scenery for more than 15 years and also remembers the landscape of the Everglades as central to her childhood. In this collection, she considers how spending time in nature can impact the way we live our lives and interact with others.
Throughout the history of literature, nature and the Earth have proved to be timeless and ever-evolving subject matter. Exploring the different lenses through which writers see and express their surroundings is a fascinating way to experience the true breadth of the poetry genre. The anthology Favorite Poems of the Wild: An Adventurer’s Collection incorporates wide-ranging and beloved voices—including favorite pastoral writers like Emily Dickinson and William Wordsworth—and spans both geography and time.
3. Field Work by Seamus Heaney
As one of the Lake Poets, a reference to his life and writing career in the Lake District of England, Seamus Heaney’s legacy has always been deeply tied to nature. Field Work chronicles his time living in a rural cottage with his family—perfect for those hunkering down in a national park cabin or an adult treehouse.
4. On Wings of Song: Poetry About Birds edited by J.D. McClatchy
National parks are places where visitors can regularly spot swooping eagles or hear the calls of owls. On Wings of Song: Poetry About Birds, a musical and reverent anthology, pays homage to this beautiful wildlife. Featuring writers like Sylvia Plath, Margaret Atwood, and Gertrude Stein, On Wings of Song is a celebration of birds’ long-standing presence as one of poetry’s most vital symbols.
5. Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light: Fifty Poems for Fifty Years by Joy Harjo
Joy Harjo has received honors from organizations like the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts in part because of the rich role place plays in her writing, as well as the universality of her work’s urgent themes. The former Poet Laureate regularly considers her spiritual connection to her environment and how it informs her Native ancestry and sense of community. If you’re looking for poems that unfold in the most gorgeous, sacred settings throughout the United States, these poems—some of Harjo’s best from a career spanning 50 years—are a must.
Bonus: Use your natural park trip to fuel your writing. Changing up your daily scenery and getting inspired by new imagery can be just what you need to push your work forward. Consider devoting some time each day to freewriting outside, or take photos each day and write about what comes to mind when you revisit them.