Various Instructions for the Practice of Poetic Field Research

By Eric Magrane


These instructions were created by poet, naturalist, and Spiral Orb editor Eric Magrane in celebration of National Poetry Month 2012, and in conjunction with Spiral Orb Five: A Poetic Inventory of Saguaro National Park and a reading by the same name that took place at the Poetry Center on April 16, 2012 (listen to the event on Voca).

They are designed to get you out into any given environment and enhance your awareness of that given environment in unexpected ways.


1. Note your elevation above sea level. What poems occur here?

2. Map the ¼ mile radius around your home in a poem.

3. Draw a line. On one side of the line, note observations. On the other side, write responses to those observations. Which is which?

4. Choose an object in your field. Make the object the title. Make it the title three times. Write three pieces with this title.

5. List everything that is alive around you. List everything that is not alive around you.

6. Go to a different elevation. What poems occur here?

7. Choose a species you know little about but that lives in your ecosystem. Learn everything you can about that species. Then, go find the species. Write what happens.

8. The first object-poem (see #4) will be your control. Analyze the second and third against the control. What are your conclusions?

9. Find an urban ecotone. Stand there. Write a poem from the dual space.

10. Imagine a rise in sea level. How will that affect your elevation poem?

11. List everything that is natural around you. List everything that is not natural around you.

12. Observe lists #5 and #11. Why did you organize them as you did? Is there such a thing?

13. Stand up and put your arms out. The length of your arms is the circle of the poem.

14. Choose a field you know little about. Find someone in that field to interview. Research the person’s work beforehand, so that you can ask relevant questions. Conduct the interview, then write a poem.

15. Write a poem that takes place over 4.5 billion years.

16. Write a poem that is 3 degrees Celsius warmer than it is now.