The best contemporary nature poetry books

Who am I?

My name is Bri Bruce, writing as B. L. Bruce, and am an award-winning poet and Pushcart prize nominee from California. Over the last decade and a half, my work has appeared in dozens of literary publications. I am the author of four books and Editor-in-Chief of nature-centric magazine Humana Obscura. I was raised with a wildlife biologist/avid gardener for a mother and a forestry major/backpacker/fisherman as a father. Both my parents instilled in me at a young age a love of nature. A lifetime spent outdoors inspires my work—so much so that I’ve been called a “poetic naturalist” and the “heiress of Mary Oliver.”

I wrote...

The Weight of Snow: New & Selected Poems

By B.L. Bruce,

Book cover of The Weight of Snow: New & Selected Poems

What is my book about?

In The Weight of Snow, author B. L. Bruce explores the many plights of the human species, from the mysteries of the heart and the inescapability of death to the depths of human emotion. Told from the perspective of a poetic naturalist, Bruce shares her appreciation of the wild, illuminating the profound in the mundane while chronicling the natural world as both an observer and as an irrefutable part of it. Her poems focus strongly on image and locality, conjuring the imaginations of readers and celebrating the beauty in the follies of the human condition and its capacity to grip the soul.

The books I picked & why

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Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

By Mary Oliver,

Book cover of Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

Why this book?

Devotions is a comprehensive anthology of Mary Oliver’s best work. Oliver is without a doubt the gold standard in nature poetry, and one of the most renowned authors of the genre. It reminds me of all the reasons why she is and will always be my favorite poet, and one of the best poets of the last century. If anyone feels themselves drawn to nature poetry, this book is a must-read.

Book of Haikus

By Jack Kerouac,

Book cover of Book of Haikus

Why this book?

While Jack Kerouac can arguably be synonymous with the Beat generation, the poems in this collection reveal a lesser-known and seldom seen but poignant side of Kerouac’s legacy. He distills his surroundings into short vignettes, reminiscent of the Beat style and motif, but incorporates a significant amount of nature imagery. They’re beautiful glimpses of the world through the eyes of one of America’s most influential authors.

No Other Life

By Gary Young,

Book cover of No Other Life

Why this book?

No Other Life combines three of Gary Young’s books into one volume. There is such unique style and quiet beauty to Young’s work. I am truly inspired by it. He has a knack for capturing the extraordinary in the mundane in brief but deep prose poems that grip the soul. 

Young was one of my professors in college and was a driving force for why I pursued a creative writing degree and chose to continue to write after graduating. His work will always hold a special place in my nature-loving creative heart.

Washing the Stones: Selected Poems, 1975-1995

By Maude Meehan,

Book cover of Washing the Stones: Selected Poems, 1975-1995

Why this book?

This volume of selected poems and unpublished works spoke to me during a time when I was finding my voice, and was formative during my early years as a poet. While not heavily embedded in the nature genre, the author on occasion writes her observations of the natural world with strong imagery. The author is also from my hometown of Santa Cruz, California, and left her mark on the poetry community. Her poems are powerful but accessible and written in simple language, which I feel makes for the best kind of poetry.

Halfway to Silence: New Poems

By May Sarton,

Book cover of Halfway to Silence: New Poems

Why this book?

The majority of Sarton’s work is introspective, giving glimpses into a writer’s creative process, a passion for writing, and one’s observations and emotions. This short collection of Sarton’s poems embodies her work as a nature poet without being overwhelmingly so. It’s a great introduction to her work. For a brief time in my life isolated myself for a month in a small cabin in a remote forest to do nothing but write. I read May Sarton and it was as if my experience paralleled her and my struggles validated by her work.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in poetry, nature, and the gold standard?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about poetry, nature, and the gold standard.

Poetry Explore 204 books about poetry
Nature Explore 97 books about nature
The Gold Standard Explore 15 books about the gold standard

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Road, Wintering, and The World-Ending Fire if you like this list.