Garden writing, photography, poetry, and research

Dec 31, 1969
Image for issue at Youth Voices

Will you: 

In this mission you will write descriptions and responses in a nature notebook, take photographs in a garden, and compose poems about flowers, vegetables and fruit. Then you'll do research on the flowers, vegetables, and fruit that your peers have published. Next, you'll write comments that include quotations (with citations) from your research and another poem in response the the one you're commenting on.

This is a process that you will do as many times as possible. You go to the garden, take pictures, post them on Youth Voices, do research, write poetry, then go back to the garden, write more descriptions and responses and another poem.

You'll also probably begin to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch more this time, and you'll include precise descriptive details about a flower, vegetable, or fruit in a public garden near you.

Each time you will look to see if your writing can become more and more attuned to the nature that you are observing. It's a process that will help you to see better


Go to the same spot in a public garden a couple of times a week for several weeks. Follow these directions provided by the writer, Kristine O'Connell George on her Web page, Tips for Poets--Observation:


I studied poetry for many years with noted anthologist and poet, Myra Cohn Livingston. At the beginning of each class she didn't lecture — she sent us outside — to observe and to write. She wanted us to learn to look closely at the world around us and to understand that observation is a powerful tool for a writer.... Myra had us divide our paper into two columns. One column was labeled "Observation" and the other was labeled "Feelings and Reactions."

Try this technique: Choose a flower, vegetable, or fruit in a public garden and write about it for ten minutes, using a worksheet like the one suggested above. As Ms. George writes, "Ten minutes will seem like a long time, but keep writing. I think you just might be surprised at what you discover." (Also see: Freewriting, focused sentences, and generative themes: Finding your niche.)

After writing observations and reactions for at least 20 minutes, write an instant poem. You'll have time to revise it later, but just take the words and phrases from your descriptions and reactions and arrange them into the first draft of a poem.

In addition to writing a poem, also take three photographs of the flower, vegetable, or fruit that you have written a poem about. Take some time to compose each of these images carefully and uniquely. Each should be from a different angle, distance, or position in your viewfinder. Make them as different from each other as possible.

Read your poem to peers and show it to your teacher for response. If you have time do some instant revising too!

Once you get back into the classroom or back to your home, craft your poem with more attention to the form that you want your poem to take.

Create a discussion on Youth Voices with your poem, and add the three photographs that you took of "your" flower, vegetable, or fruit.


Next the fun starts! Now look at your peers' poems and photographs and write two or three comments on these discussions. Follow this guide:


This guide makes clear what is expected of a research-based response to a poem about a flower, vegetable, or fruit.

First the responder must identify the common name of the plant, then he or she needs to read about that flower, vegetable, or fruit.

Once the responder learns details about the history, significance, uses or typical characteristics of the plant, these details should be shared in a comment, with quotations from the original source. These should be cited properly and linked back to the source.

Finally, this guide asks the responder to write a poem of his or her own in response to the one in the discussion post. Details from the research should also be included in this response poem.


The process continues! Go back to the garden, and look for the flower, vegetable, or fruit that you did your research on and wrote your comment about.


Write another poem, and this time include details from your research. What do you see now that you might not have seen before?

Take three photographs of your plant again.

Post your photographs and poem on Youth Voices, and write more "research-based" comments on your peers' discussions.


Do it again!