Flowers on Poems

busonThere are many things in nature that make for excellent topics for poems; however, the flower probably has attracted more attention than most others based solely on its appearance. Our eyes are drawn to color, so when a flower is in full bloom we tend to spot them more quickly than, let’s say, green leaves, which blend into the background. And we aren’t the only things drawn to flower – bees, birds, butterflies, and many other insects and animals find the smells and appearance of flowers to be very attractive.

One of the first poets who comes to mind when I think of flowers is Emily Dickinson. While most of us know Dickinson for her poems about flowers, during her life time, she was actually better known for her work with flowers than she was for her poetry. Her mother has often been given credit for helping young Emily develop a fascination for gardening. She also learned much about plants when she was attending Amherst Academy and later, when she was a student at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. During those years in college, Dickinson assembled a sizable book of pressed plant leaves and flowers, including somewhere around 400 species, each properly identified with its Latin nomenclature. The collection is now kept at Harvard University’s Houghton Library.

May-Flower
by Emily Dickinson

Another popular poet who was fond of flowers and nature was the beloved Robert Frost. Hardly a single one of his poems fails to have some reference to natural elements of some sort. Although some of his contemporaries criticized him for being too colloquial and old fashioned, modern day scholars see his works as a reflection of the poet’s ability to see things quite differently than the rest of us do. Frost rarely wrote poems according to any set standard as did others of his time. Most of his schemes were truly original, dictated more by the flow of the words than of some contemporary 19th century schemata.

Wind and window flower
by Robert Frost

Of course, American poets aren’t the only ones who have written about flowers. I would suggest that every culture in the world has had poems written about flowers. One very popular culture that often mentions nature and flowers in its poetry is Japan. Through its many forms of poetry, one that is prone to discussions of flower is tanka. These 31 syllable poems have been popular in Japan for over 1300 years, and are still quite popular today. A well knows writer of this form of poetry is Buson. This noted Japanese painter and poet studied haiku under several well known masters, and later was himself a well respected teacher. He is often considered one of the most respected poets during the Japanese Edo period.

Untitled
by Buson

Regardless of whether one writes hundreds of lines to express an appreciation for flowers, or just a mere thirty one syllables, the magic of the poets pen is superior to describing the pleasure people find in observing one of nature’s most lovely creations.



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