SCC “Parks For Life Challenge” Poems

If you are looking for poems to recite for the Santa Clara County ParksParks for Life” Challenge you are in the right place!! Congratulations!!

(If you have stumbled here other than directly from the Parks for Life Adventure #221 or #237, why not check out the game! The whole list of adventures is at this link.)

Poetry and nature are true companions and have been since the beginning of time. Find a nice shady spot near a stream, or a sunny perch on a mountain top, wander deep into the forest to contemplate the stillness, or just hold hands with your beloved (team member) at your favorite park spot. Read poetry to each other, recite poetry to squirrels and birds (they are very appreciative), read a silly poem with your kids. Read quietly alone or proclaim to a crowd! Ponder the links between the natural world and the written word.

To earn points for this adventure choose one of the poems or books below to honor the long-time relationship between poetry and California nature!

  • Read a poem out loud and capture it on video
  • Take a photo of your team with the poem or poetry book

The Academy of American Poets has many poems about nature, and this link will orient you, if you are unfamiliar with the genre. This link is a list of nature poems from The Poetry Foundation has a list of 42 poems on the subject of Nature. Below is a selection that are well matched to the natural environment of Santa Clara County.

General Poems about Nature

  • Old Woman Nature” by California poet, Gary Snyder. Have you seen bones or animal droppings on your hikes?
  • By the Stream” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Sit near the water and read this, or just remember what water sounds like.
  • My Heart Leaps Up” by William Wordsworth. Read this and remember a rainbow in the sky. How lucky we are to have access to the natural world.
  • Deep in the Quiet Wood” by James Weldon Johnson. If you’re tired of the noisy city, go into the woods and listen.
  • A Day” by Emily Dickinson. Are you in the park at sunrise? At sunset? Isn’t it glorious?
  • Reckless Poem” by Mary Oliver (who wrote many many poems about nature, including a whole book of poems about dogs, Dog Songs. If you’re taking a dog to the park, check out her book at the library and read to your dog!)

General Poems about Parks

  • Parks and Ponds” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (also good for kids!!)
  • In the Park” by John Koethe — a longer, sadder poem about life’s journey, imagining the future “as a beautiful park” — this poem is a bit of a challenge, but it’s lovely
  • In Golden Gate Park That Day” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti — poem about a sad relationship, but the description of a couple in the park is remarkable. And sometimes when you don’t feel great, being in the park can help.

Poems Specifically About California Nature

  • Tree” by California poet, Jane Hirshfield. Find a redwood tree and think about this.
  • In California: Morning, Evening, Late January” by Denise Levertov. What is it like to live in the suburbs, to be close to nature, getting ever diminished? What does it mean to you to have access to nature and parks?
  • California Prodigal” by Maya Angelou. Poppies, lupine, adobe, giant trees and rolling hills.
  • Wood’s Edge” by California poet Brenda Hillman — violets, tall trees, bats (strange, but that’s okay)
  • Becoming a Redwood” by Dana Gioia — longish, but worth it.

Selection of poems to read with and to children

Celebrating Juan Felipe Herrera, California poet, first Mexican American Poet Laureate of the United States

Books of California Poems

You can look for these books at your local library or take the plunge and buy one! Pick a poem, or learn all about the history of our state and poetry.

  • A Collection of Verse by California Poets: From 1849 to 1915 (available in the public domain on
  • California Poetry from the Gold Rush to the Present (published 2003, so including many more recent poems) Find it on Amazon or at the library!
  • From the Bellybutton of the Moon, poems in Spanish and English, by Francisco Alarcon. Poems for children about summer. Find it on Amazon or at the library!

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