Lawnmowing poetry

by nike, July 4, 2017

Asa Gray wrote Increase Lapham:
pay particular attention
to my pets, the grasses.

— by Lorine Niedecker (1940).

This semester, I’m teaching a poetry course for third year undergraduates. I’ve never been one  to divide a semester into the usual kind of weeks (week one: line, week two: stanza, week three: metre and metonymy … no, no, no!), so it will come as no surprise to some of you to hear that during week two we’ll be doing ‘lawnmowing’.

I have a small but rather lovely little folder that contains my favourite lawnmowing poems. These include (in historical order, by date of first publication):

There are other poems that mention lawns or lawnmowing in passing, or in their titles, but are not focused on the art of lawnmowing (Louis Simpson’s ‘On the Lawn at the Villa’, A D Hope’s ‘Lying on the Lawn’ or Thomas Hardy’s ‘The High-School Lawn’, for example. Or there’s Richard Wilbur’s ‘To An American Poet Just Dead’, Howard Nemerov’s ‘The Beautiful Lawn Sprinkler’ or ‘Suburban Prophecy’, or William Stafford’s ‘Elegy’) but these seem less of a kind to me. I was also reminded of Judith Beveridge’s beautiful ‘My Neighbour Blowing Grassblades’ when I asked some friends, recently, if they could help me find more examples by women and/or non-white poets — not quite there (nor is her equally wondrous poem about peacocks on the lawn)– but well worth seeking out and reading.

If you know of any other lawnmowing poems, I’d love to hear about them. I will be encouraging my students to write their own lawnmowing poems, and may have a crack myself – join us?

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