University of Iowa

Walking in the Field of Words: Using the Natural Landscape in Poems

Weekend July 20 to July 21 2019

Barry Lopez claims that landscape is a “shaping force” and that our physical experience of the landscape is integral to the meaning of the landscape itself. Landscape, then, is internal as well as external, and there is an intimate relationship between the physical and emotional terrains. In this weekend workshop, we will explore the ways some modern European and American poets have used nature and the landscape, looking at a variety of poems by poets such as Richard Wilber, James Wright, Caitlin Cowan, Paul Celan, Jiri Ortin, Pattiann Rogers, Elizabeth Bishop, Ken Smith, Wilfred Owen, Ted Hughes, Andrew Feld, Henry Reed, Keith Althaus, Leslie Norris, Patricia K. Smith, and Gillian Clarke. Most of these poets are not what one would call traditional “nature poets,” and they have been chosen specifically because of this fact: they illustrate how many (if not all) poets use the natural world as a way to reveal and complicate larger human, ethical, political, and spiritual concerns. Through focused writing prompts, you will generate your own lyric and/or narrative poems that use nature, landscape, and the natural world to embody the poem’s concern/s. On the level of craft, we will look closely at how line breaks, sequencing of images, and the music of the lines themselves help to carry the poem’s larger message or idea. Looking at the marriage of form and content in this way will give you more tools and options as you craft your own poems. We will workshop these new poems as well as “nature” poems you bring from home. Poets at all levels and work at all stages are welcome.


In this workshop we will generate new writing through guided exercises and prompts; provide feedback on writing you bring from home or produce in our weekend.