The best poetry books with nature poems to make you think and feel

The Books I Picked & Why

William Wordsworth: Selected Poems

By William Wordsworth

Book cover of William Wordsworth: Selected Poems

Why this book?

I cherish this book and always take it on holiday with me. "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" is probably the best romantic nature poem ever written. The image of how the senses are responsive to, and creative of, the inner life of nature is sublime ("of eye, and ear, - both what they half create, And what perceive”). This poem encapsulates for me the whole nebulous but immeasurably important job of writing poetry, as well as shining a light on what it means to be a human being.


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The Thing in the Gap-Stone Stile

By Alice Oswald

Book cover of The Thing in the Gap-Stone Stile

Why this book?

Alice Oswald is one of our best living poets, renowned for her nature poetry and particularly her long poem about the River Dart in Somerset. I love this first collection, full of heart-stopping attention to detail and transcendental shiver. She follows very much in the tradition of our great poets writing about nature. Try the poem "Mountains" for a Wordsworthian sense of a hidden, almost pantheistic presence in the world. 


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The Hawk in the Rain: Poems

By Ted Hughes

Book cover of The Hawk in the Rain: Poems

Why this book?

The first collection by former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes includes one of the most stunning poems about the connection between poet, pen, and nature in the form of "The Thought-Fox." Hughes has a pared back, often disturbing vision of the world that seizes your attention. If you like this don’t stop, there are plenty of other wonderful books by Hughes, especially his retelling of the "Tales from Ovid" and "The Birthday Letters," his poems about his relationship with his first wife, the equally brilliant Sylvia Plath.


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Seeds of the Pomegranate

By Sherry Lazarus Ross

Book cover of Seeds of the Pomegranate

Why this book?

Sherry Ross is an American poet who writes about loss, motherhood, and rebirth. Her nature poems reverberate with extraordinary detail and imagery, for instance, the running girl who finds the field has ended in a "party dress of hunter green," where "the trance of sunlight breaks, brings forgetfulness of open fields, distant voices, summer games." She ventures into the forest, with its ‘palate of light and dark’. Read these poems for their aching blend of sadness and joy. 


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The Ghost in the Machine: Poems of Love, Loss, Life and Death

By Barbara Lennox

Book cover of The Ghost in the Machine: Poems of Love, Loss, Life and Death

Why this book?

What makes Scottish poet Barbara Lennox so special is her ability to draw on her scientific background, striking an exquisite balance between a mechanistic view of nature and a more mysterious, creative approach. I love poems about birds and flight and her poems about an owl ("ears inhale every sound"), hawk ("she’s light/ ready for the off/ half-poised for flight"), and the extinct Archaeopteryx, "smeared to a layer of limestone" are some of the finest written. On top of that, Lennox writes astonishing poems about the Scottish Highlands, where I’ve spent some of my happiest times.


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