Great poetry can capture mood, movement and beauty in a way few other artforms can. Here are some of the very best collections of nature and countryside poetry ever written about the British countryside.
We’ve also included collections of works of individual poets, old and new, who capture the instances of beauty, cruelty and absurdity of nature – and the deep feelings that are stirred within us whenever we are engaging with the outdoors.
The best poetry books on nature and the British countryside
Here is our selection of the best collections of poetry currently available. If you have a collection you'd like us to consider for this list, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
John Clare: Major Works
Perhaps Britain's most influential nature poet, John Clare (1793-1864) was one of the first great romantic poets. The son of agricultural labourers, John Clare had little formal education but his understanding of nature and rural life led him to create wonderful works that illuminate the countryside.
Clare was a prolific writer and gained notable recognition in his lifetime though his mental and physical health deteriorated badly and he died in obscurity spending the last 25 years of his life in a mental institution. But his fame has grown posthumously and this is a collection of some of his best-known works.
Waterlight: Selected Poems
By Kathleen Jamie
Wonderful evocations of natural imagery blend with a keen understanding of human spirit and people’s place in nature. Not just poems of wild places, these whirl into urban spaces and several of the works are written in Scots dialect. Beautiful and sometimes challenging.
Poetry please: The seasons
Taken from the Radio 4 poetry programme, this anthology celebrates the landscapes and atmospheres of the seasons in some of Britain’s best-loved verse. Our lives are deeply influenced by the seasons, and it is here that we find poems about new life, growth, harvest and the stillness of winter. Featuring John Clare, Philip Larkin and John Keats among others.
The Book of Nature: Wordsworth’s Poetry on Nature
A collection of poems by Britain’s most famous romantic poet. Lyrical, sometimes powerful, sometimes wistful, often ethereal, this is a paean to the beauty of the outdoors.
Poems on Nature: Collectors Library
Introduced by Helen MacDonald
Mining a rich tradition of songs and rhymes, this collection explores how poets from Andrew Marvell to W. B. Yeats to Emily Brontë use verse to describe our relationship with to the natural environment.
The Poetry of Birds
Eds Tim Dee and Simon Armitage
The finest collection of bird poems as gathered by a great nature writer (Dee) and the Poet Laureate (Armitage). Poems are organised according to ornithological classification, and there are detailed ornithological notes which illuminate the poems and provide fascinating information on the birds. Altogether this is a truly original anthology.
The Lost Words
Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
Nature writer Macfarlane’s collection of ‘spells’ illustrated by Morris conjure nature words to kindle a love of the wild in every reader. Inspired by the decisions of the Oxford Junior Dictionary to remove once commonplace words such as bluebell and acorn, The Lost Words has captured imaginations across the world.
Iona: New and Selected Poems
By Kenneth Steven
Countryfile Magazine podcast regular Kenneth Steven is a prolific poet, inspired by the landscapes, wildlife and climatic moods of the Western Isles. This is a homage to his experiences on this most enchanted of islands, from childhood visits to adulthood.
By Ted Hughes
Ordered according to season, this collection of poems was initially aimed at children but the works “grew up” as he wrote them, Poet Laureate Hughes later said. Yet, they appeal to all ages, with a deep and earthy quality that captures mood and beauty from spring’s new life to autumn’s decay.