Sound of the Wild


Ever since I was little girl I have been in love with onomatopoeia, though I didn't know to call it that back then. Words like splash, splodge, and cock-a-doodle-doo filled me with fierce joy. I would yell them out loud when jumping in muddy puddles or tumbling down a grassy knoll. They were my battle cry.

Robust words have a physicality to them. At times, feeling like the clip-clop of horseshoes on cobblestones. At others, like a broom swished across the floor. Sometimes they snap like twigs.

To read the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins out loud is to give voice to language in love with movement, nature. His is an animate language--full of breath and bravery.

Glory be to God for dappled things –

   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;

      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

                                Praise him.

I recited the poem at the Conference of World Affairs last year while a musician accompanied me on guitar. Poetry is song.

When I began to study as a poetry therapist almost fifteen years ago, a deep love for language welled up in me again. I saw how poems unlocked energy, lit fires, called someone back from despair.

It is not enough to read a poem on the page, to yourself. Poetry needs to be spoken out loud; it is part of an oral tradition that draws all living things together. Writes David Abram in Becoming Animal, "Entranced by the denotative power of words to define, to order, to represent the things around us, we've overlooked the songful dimension of language so obvious to our oral [storytelling] ancestors. We've lost our ear for the music of language -- for the rhythmic, melodic layer of speech by which earthly things overhear us.”

My life is poetry now. The poetry of Earth... language with the roots left on. This is what Linda Hogan tells us in her essay, Walking, "Sometimes I hear it talking. The light of the sunflower was one language, but there are others, more audible. Once, in the redwood forest, I heard a beat, something like a drum or heart coming from the ground and trees and wind. That underground current stirred a kind of knowing inside me, a kinship and longing, a dream barely remembered that disappeared back to the body."

This is what calls to my wild soul: language that cannot be easily contained--but must be taken outdoors and read to the trees, stars, and all that is swift, slow, sweet, sour, adazzle dim.

What is your favorite poem to read out loud? Please share it with us.

If you live in the UK, also please consider joining my husband and me at Hawkwood in Stroud for Rewilding the Soul: Writing from the Natural World