Kimberly Burwick was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts. She earned her BA in Literature from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and her MFA in Poetry from Antioch University, Los Angeles. She is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Brightword (Carnegie Mellon, 2019) and Custody of the Eyes (Carnegie Mellon, 2017). She teaches at Colby-Sawyer College and lives in Meriden, New Hampshire.
How did you begin working with/in response to natural environments?
For as long as I can remember, the natural world and the world of the arts felt like one in the same. I remember reading Walden for the first time and thinking how much sense it made, even centuries later, that we need “the tonic of wilderness.” The simplicity of trees, water, open land and altitude are not just important to me, but essential to my homeostasis as a person and as a writer.
Share with us one of your favorite creative pieces and the natural environment it responds to.
Let me share with you one of my favorite pieces that responds to the ocean, or more specifically, the way I watched my young son respond to the ocean. Children have a way of experiencing the natural world that many adults envy. They first experience the natural world in a completely sensory way. And they name it how they see it. It’s all very specific. For example, when I mentioned to my son that it was getting dark, he said, “it’s like blue-crab dark.” And he was right. He had to compare that darkness with a lighter darkness he had found earlier in the sand, that of a blue crab. So, in a sense, this poem is teaching me how to read and feel nature the way I did as a child.
The earth warms to earth’s blue-crab dark
then comes the soul with gull breath,
water dressing up the sand
with weather, the boy is built of cloud-melt
and tiny settlements of glory –
hair, body, nails – shine alone
far ahead, cluttered with scent, the whole
poisoned sea-rhythm still sure enough
to go on toward ribbed muscle and cod
What advice do you have for someone who wants to co-create with the natural world?
My advice for someone who wishes to co-create with the natural world is to spend real time in nature. I’m not talking about a half an hour or an hour in between episodes of your favorite Netflix show. I urge you to be unabashedly in nature in all kinds of weather, for days, or weeks. Also, try being alone in nature. Pay attention to your breath. The sensation of waking up to a moon in the middle of the night watching your breath as a sort of comet path across the black sky. Notice how your feet get sore and wet from hiking miles in snow and rain. Be unafraid of diving into a pond with frogs and turtles. You don’t have to buy a plane ticket to be in nature. Find a spot close to you and leave your notebook behind. Without distraction notice how art has been created for centuries on rocks, and leaves.
Listen to Kimberly Burwick read three stunning poems on Terrian.org