Literary Yard

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Flora and Fauna Fantastically Fine, a Craft Essay on Nature Writing

By Brian Michael Barbeito 

I had been writing things for a long time, and some of the forms were poems, short stories, essays, flash fiction, and even experimental novelettes. And I thought, why don’t I publish some in literary magazines and also on my own? This I did and it was a fun journey, an interesting time. But in a sense the learning curve was reached and at the same moment so to speak, I had acquired two large dogs. 

I found myself in the fields and forests just north of where I lived. I didn’t dislike nature certainly, but I wasn’t an actual hiker or nature poet/writer. 


Soon I began to try new paths that veered off the regular ones. And I tread new paths artistically also. I went to look at ponds, the far perimeter of public walking trails, and admired what was there. Boulders, moss, agate, inspiring vistas, little bridges some rustic and kind soul had made over water. These things were not just a bunch of green trees and what’s more, I found the quietude calming, meditative, even spiritual. Time to be alone but not lonely, and the few souls I did run into were for the most part kind. 

Everything seemed to be waiting right before me. 

When I got home I would write. And there were a few reasons why I stuck for the most part with nature writing and now consider myself primarily a nature poet and writer. Since what I was writing was about the little sojourns I had just taken, I found I didn’t have to make anything up. I could just record what I had seen. Secondly, I had become a nature photographer at the same time and had all these visual writing prompts in case I forgot anything I’d seen as in, ‘Oh ya, that wild and red sumac, the trees that live on the summit of the far hill,’ or, ‘I almost forgot I saw three or four large pieces of Chaga mushroom growing on one tree when I went to that strange misty marshland area…’

And Providence smiled also as an old farmer gave me permission to roam his land. He owned an entire forest just behind his farm. 

Ontario had all four seasons so though anywhere things change a bit if you look closely, they also really change here as in from cold snowy February to warm and colourful July. Being the sole creator, and putting the work mostly just on blogs or sharing with friends, I can write however I want. If I am in a purple prose poetical descriptive mood, so be it, because I like it and am happy with it. If I want, on the other hand, to form a flash fiction story with more rules and structure, then that is  what becomes ‘the order of the day’ for me.  

Freedom. Freedom in walking and freedom in writing. 

Becoming a nature writer brings exercise, fresh air, piques curiosity about flora and fauna and even just the mood of the skies or woodland grounds. Great artists have espoused that spirit of writing, people whose work has already proved timeless such as Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. Though none of them I shall be, the whole beauty of it is that you can just be yourself in life and in writing. 

Simple joys. A break from the over-competitive world and it’s physical and emotional infrastructure. 

And could it not be argued if even in a friendly manner that journaling and journal-type writing, blogging, love letters and all epistolary, spontaneous writing, diaries, writing from the hip and heart, are bound to contain a bit more honesty than most other types? This writer believes so. I don’t submit much anymore I am on an indefinite hiatus from reading submission guidelines that are often pages long and looking up literary magazines. But I did send some out when I began nature writing. One editor contacted me and said he liked the descriptions very much but nothing happens in the work. Yet another editor took some the pieces, published them, and they got nominated for a Best of the Net Award under the creative non-fiction category. Things like this happen often. That is why, within reason, I am of the school of thought that one should stick mainly with what they have produced and not change it too much. It will find its place sometime. And if not, it is completely unique. 

It’s poetry. 
Even when it’s prose. 

And it’s better to be even considered a bad poet than a good anything else. That way you were still a poet, a wonderful whimsical calling, much like the wild woodlands themselves. 

Nature and art are the best trip.  
I stand behind them. 
I believe in them. 

If anyone ever asked me, I would highly recommend trying the walking and the nature writing. They might not seem like the most interesting things at first glance, but if the creator of the work benefits from them, then that is what is paramount. I think deadlines, contests, competitions, working with editors sometimes, are fine. But this is one form that I have found can just bring the poet or writer back to the simple joys of creation and of creation on the page. 

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