“Ultimately, animals offer poets a mirror through which to explore themselves,
an unwitting foil used to understand what it means to be human.”
October fourth of this week marks the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis has, for centuries, been associated with animals and birds, and is often depicted with them. Records tell us that St. Francis welcomed all creatures into the circle of his immediate family. Many of us welcome pets into our hearts and into our homes; and many of us are concerned about animal rights and the preservation of endangered species. In our love and concern, we learn that animals help us transcend the boundaries of species and move toward understanding the interconnectedness of all life. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this prompt – this week our poems are about animals (wild and domestic – furred, feathered, and finned)!
From among the countless, here are a few animal poems for you to read before writing your own:
Some Options for Your Poem:
1. Have you ever had a special pet or pets? Write a poem about a beloved pet.
2. Are you concerned about the preservation of endangered species and animal rights? Do you believe that animals are not ours to experiment on, use for entertainment, or otherwise abuse? Write a related poem.
3. Is there a particular kind of animal (wild or domestic) that you consider a favorite? Write about your favorite species or breed.
4. Have you ever tried to see things as an animal might? Animals offer us unique opportunities to see beyond the boundaries of human perspectives. Write a persona poem from the perspective of an animal.
5. Have you ever heard that people sometimes resemble their pets? Write a poem in which you compare yourself (or someone you know) to an animal. Think about common characteristics.
6. Do animal antics make you smile? Write a humorous or whimsical animal poem.
7. Have you ever mourned the loss of a beloved pet? Think about this quote for a few moments and then write a poem about a pet you have lost: “We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way.” (Irving Townsend)
By way of sharing, here’s a poem I wrote in memory of Yeats, my beloved Yorkshire Terrier.
Watching (In Memory of Yeatsy, January 5, 1993 - July 6, 2008)
by Adele Kenny
The way his head slips from
my hand as I lay him down,
his eyes still open (though I
try to close them), the same
warmth still in his small body.
It is this: death, a skill learned
by those who observe it; grief
what we keep – and memory
always, at least in part, about
forgetting. I cross his paws the
way he crossed them in sleep.
Like all deaths that summer
remembers, I walk his home.
A patch of sun climbs the stairs
without him; white moths,
like snowflakes, span the sky.
From The American Voice in Poetry: The Legacy of Whitman, Williams, and Ginsberg (Copyright © 2010 by The Poetry Center, Passaic County Community College. All rights reserved. ISBN: 978-0-9621495-9-7).