The Animal Encounter Poem

Shutterstock / Delbars © animal encounter

Have you been reading Poetry Ed Abbie’s series of Prompts over the past few weeks?

They’re a great insight into different forms and structures, as well as some real inspiration to help you get started writing your own poems.

But what should you write about?

A great many famous poems are, of course, about love. But really your work can be about anything you like!

One popular genre (and one of my favourites) is the “animal encounter” poem.

Interactions with nature

The human race’s relationship to and interactions with nature have always been a source of fascination.

Think of all the books written from the point of view of animals, or even the ubiquity of safaris, nature trails and zoos.

These encounters aren’t only a way of experiencing the world around us, but also a way of interrogating our place in it, reflecting on our relationships with one another, or even celebrating the Divine.

“Two Look At Two”

Famed American poet Robert Frost wrote a number of animal encounter poems over his career, but perhaps the most well-known is “Two Look At Two”.

It follows two hikers (presumed to be a man and a woman) who encounter a doe, then a buck on the other side of tumble-down wall (Frost also has a thing about walls).

It concludes with the following lines:

“Two had seen two, whichever side you spoke from.
‘This must be all.’ It was all. Still they stood,
A great wave from it going over them,
As if the earth in one unlooked-for favour
Had made them certain earth returned their love.”

Here, it’s as though the hikers have been looking in a mirror (the wall), and have seen themselves, and their relationship, reflected in the deer — and have learned something about themselves.

In Edward Thomas’s “Out In The Dark”, there’s a different sort of revelation to be had when the poet encounters a deer:

“And star and I and wind and deer,
Are in the dark together, — near,
Yet far, — and fear
Drums on my ear
In that sage company drear.

“How weak and little is the light,
All the universe of sight,
Love and delight,
Before the might,
If you love it not, of night.”

A great many of Thomas’s poems are concerned with his fighting in the First World War — a conflict that would ultimately claim his life.

Consequently, he considers mortality, and the nature of conflict, a great deal.

Here, he seems to be contemplating the idea that all things must end. Not only his own life, but also that of the deer (perhaps the natural world), and even the stars themselves. 

In doing so, he brings man and nature “in the dark together, — near”. No longer in conflict with one another, but engaged in the same fight to live.

Deer, it seems, can mean a lot of things . . .

The animal encounter is just one genre of poetry, and there are plenty more out there. 

Get in touch on Facebook or Twitter and tell us your favourites!

Will this inspire you?

Recently I received this video from a reader, of a family encounter with a cheeky wee squirrel:


Will it inspire you to write an “animal encounter” poem? Why not submit it to us here at “The People’s Friend”!

Click here to read Abbie’s Poetry Prompts for some more inspiration.

Click here for more fantastic Fiction content.

Iain McDonald

Iain is Digital Content Editor at the "Friend", making him responsible for managing flow of interesting and entertaining content on the magazine's website and social media channels.