I was on a bike ride with my mom over the holidays, during my visit to Florida. I screeched to a stop on the sidewalk at the sight of some black-bellied whistling ducks. I was so excited. Whistling ducks are the cutest kind of ducks!
“Do you have your phone? Take a picture!”
“Leave only poetry, Mom.”
I stood, handlebars in my hands. I watched the ducks. They watched me. We were still together. I counted ten birds. I smiled like a doofus. I pedaled away and later tweeted this:
On the fourth day of Christmas
Florida gave to me
Ten black-bellied whistling ducks
Leave Only Poetry is a social media campaign I started that I hope will inspire people to share about their experiences with wildlife using words instead of pictures.
Have you already read all my obnoxious tweets (@AlmostAnthro) about it but you’re still hesitant to participate?
BECAUSE I’M NOT A POET! Is that what you’re thinking? Maybe you like the concept, but you can’t think of anything ‘good’ to write. Here are some ideas:
- Think of words- any words- to describe the animal you are seeing. White, feathery, graceful, boat, romance, intimidating, dinosaur. List them. Rearrange them. Combine adjectives and nouns.
- Give the animal a new name. Snowy giraffe bird. It can be silly. It can be stupid. But it’s a new way of thinking.
- Write a ‘found poem‘ using a description of the animal in a field guide. What, that has already been written, resonates with you and your experience? It doesn’t have to be a field guide. It can be a children’s book. Or another poem. Or a comment made by your animal-observing companion.
- Imagine what the animal is thinking or feeling. God is in the lily pad, thought the swan. You’re a poet, not an ornithologist (unless you are, in which case, you can be both). You can write whatever you want.
- Write a simile. Make a comparison. You could do it in 4th grade language arts, so do it now. Steam rose from the beaver lodge like smoke from a chimney. It’s not brilliant, but that beaver lodge is gonna be cozy in my memories…
- Write a haiku. Forget 5-7-5! Three lines. Capture the moment. Just be you.
If it’s not already clear, the ‘poetry’ to which I refer is simply an attempt to capture your experience in words. It should not be scary or pretentious or inhibiting. The poems can be as varied in quality and form as our encounters with other creatures are. Sometimes, in an intimate yet annoying interaction, an animal sucks your blood. Sometimes you barely catch the blurry glimpse of a bear butt on the distant horizon.
My point is that you’re a poet no matter what you write. The next time you encounter wildlife, write a poem. Share it on social media. Let me know how you like it. And don’t forget the hashtag #leaveonlypoetry
*Some of these ideas were inspired by poemcrazy: freeing your life with words by Susan G. Wooldridge, a book that I highly recommend.