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A GeoPoetry Anthology – Accretionary Wedge #51 Compilation

Firstly, I would like to thank everyone that participated in this edition of the Accretionary Wedge. There were a few comments that the topic was somewhat out of people’s comfort zone so I am glad that there was still fantastic participation and people willing to try poetry writing out even if it was a different sort of medium. As you know poems come in all shapes, sizes and subjects and a key part of any anthology is how to organize the poems. Many are organized according to poetic style or author. However, since we don’t have all that many poems for this anthology I thought it might be best to organize them according to geologic theme.

Therefore, without further ado I present the Accretionary Wedge: A Collection of Geology Poems. Enjoy!

Volcanoes and Igneous Rocks

The first in this category was submitted by Jessica Ball at her blog Magma Cum Laude and is a “classic” to say the least. It is a song called High Magmification set to a very catchy 1950’s tune…just try and keep it out of your head. The lyrics themselves are pretty catchy too.

The next submission was submitted as a direct comment to the Call for Posts and is a wonderful poem written by a truly gifted poet who goes by the name of Gillian B.

I think that I shall never see
A lava flow more sweet than thee.
Thy blackened edges, smould’ring still,
That skirt around the little hill
And leave a green kipuka bright
Illumed by lava day and night.
The steady fumes of CO2
With sulphur touches through and through.

So lovely is thy lethal heat,
The radiation by my feet
That indicates the magma’s reach
From mountain high to black sand beach.
When first I knew thee, thine own birth
Was posited as cracking earth
And isostatic movements great,
Yet now I know ’tis moving plates.

I long one day to see thee more,
To walk upon thy shifting shore,
To watch the glow upon the rise
That shows where vent and tunnel lies.
I’ll see thee yet, and walk thy ways
In shoes that have seen better days,
And give to Pele that which she
Demands of vulcan-philes like me.


Ron Schott has posted a poem by Teufelin Peare aptly called Metamorphism at his blog: Ron Schott’s Geology Home Companion Blog. It is full of fantastic lines and clever puns. Here is a an excerpt that got me laughing. Plagioclase twins! Great pun!

Here was garnet, red and gaudy,
There was hornblende, horribly baudy!
Biotite, he laughed with mirth,
And the Plagioclase twins did hail their birth.

Field Trips

Karen Locke has written a wonderful story in poetic form about a trip to Vaughn Gulch. This poem really brings the feeling of the place out and the experience of being on a geology class trip. A truly remarkable piece and I really love the end and how it captures the feeling that there is always more to see.

Back to the Suburbans; time to visit another canyon, learn another clue.
picking our way through purple flowers
and granite Volkswagens
off to a new view.


Anne Jefferson at Highly Allocthonous has posted a great piece about the upcoming past Hurricane Sandy which is a great synopisis of the varying forecasts of Sandy. Indeed, it is always interesting to compare the accuracy of the forecast to the actual storm. In this case they were pretty accurate. To conclude her post Anne embedded a song called Storm’s Comin by the Wailing Jenny’s that really captures the foreboding feeling that accompanies a really big storm. (Also, the video is from CBC Radio 2! Awesome!)

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I don’t want to toot my own horn too much, but I posted a self-written poem on glaciers. Check it out. It is part of a larger post on my favourite poet: Robert Service. These are probably the best lines of my poem, if I do say so myself.

scraping the land at your base;

shaping it like a colossal fresco

receding, advancing, apparently still

yet always in motion, inexorably flowing

Geology Appreciation

The geology appreciation category is our largest and rightly so since we are all lovers of earth science after all.

Leading things off is Hollis over at Plants and Rocks who posted two poems! Yeah! Move and Carmel Point are both fantastic poems about appreciating the natural world. Carmel Point, by Robinson Jeffers,  has this line which is one of the best of the carnival if you ask me.

Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,

Next is Lockwood who posted a poem called Oh Lovely Rock also by Robinson Jeffers at his blog, Outside the Interzone. Oh Lovely Rock is a terrific ode to geology.

Seeing rock for the first time. As if I were seeing through the flame-lit surface into the

real and bodily

The Geology Classroom

Danny Rosen submitted this original poem about is experience of Geology 101 as a comment on the Call for Posts.

In The Beginning
(for Doc Mears, Univ. of Wyoming)

The professor enters the lecture hall silently.
He loves the anticipation, the sequence of classes,
row upon row of young students, semester on semester,
like the strata beneath his boot; he finds himself
firmly within the infinite.

Gazing up to his new crop, cigar snuffed on the chalk tray,
stub in the pocket of his ancient jacket, battered
slacks stuffed in boots caked in mud that reek
of deep time. I lean forward.

The last of the cigar smoke rises past his wide ears,
close-cropped hair, almost moist eyes, he sighs and says,
“Well, I think it’s time to begin.”

Geology 101. High school a dim memory,
many smoky years ago; all those toilets cleaned,
trash collected, lawns mown, tables bussed, nails banged,
all those rock towers climbed with foreign labels: sandstone, granite.

“Geology.” the professor says, in a calm strong voice.
“Why would anyone want to study geology?” He walks
to the chalkboard and writes in huge capitols, G, E, O, stops,
cocks his head back to the 150 students, looks right at me.

“Because we love the earth and we want to learn
as much about it as we possibly can,” returns to the board,
finishes spelling out, L, O, G, Y, turns to face his captives
and says, “At least, I hope that’s why we study geology.”

I see years opening up: walking through that breached anticline,
traversing this topographically reversed basaltic ridge,
climbing an aplite dike into the sky, wandering
to planets beyond the sun, to the most distant stars,
feeling at home more than ever.

Garry Hayes of Geotripper has a unique post: a submission by one of his students from 1990. I have to say that I hope she got full marks for this poem because it really is great. Here is one by Vicki…and it has some great, and humourous, lines in it like this one:

Let’s check out that iridium layer
In our search for ultimate truth
Or did the dinosaurs really die
From drinking tainted vermouth?

We’ll have to ask Jon, but I am pretty sure it wasn’t the bad vermouth that killed the dinosaurs.


Danny Rosen was a double submitter to his great credit. Here is his second contribution.

Erosion of the Ancestral Rockies

Gravel and sand layed down on a broad flood plain.

Piled muck thick and thin, marsh and dune, humid-lush,

low-land-like long-ago-Georgia. Coal in the western swamp.

Laramide Orogen: a slow mountain building event. A slow

crushing dislocation—as when any life is shaken

up go mountains, down fall boulders, our ancestors

all in gym shorts, running on a sinking shore, running

on marine shale, past dying turtles and a mass fish death:

the deposit asquirm, a while, a settle down. And conduits

of young black rock, frozen and left behind, harder than

the lapping stone, topography reversed——

black snake ridge. 

Uplift, erosion, long time, and us, spilling out our earthen guts.


The final submission is an original by Dana Hunter and posted at her Scientific American blog home, Rosetta Stones. (I love that blog title!) It is called Nothing Lasts, Eternal and is a fitting way to end this compilation. It really captures the never ending cycle of geology and the underlying linkages all earth systems share. I leave you with these lines that illustrate this concept so poignantly.

Mountains rise, plains fall
And it is often forgotten 
 That this mountain was a plain once
 That this plain washed down from a peak

A beautiful vista of Coal Lake and Coal Ridge in the Yukon. (Photo: Matt Herod)

I hope you enjoyed this fantastic collection of geology poems to conclude the Accretionary Wedge 51. It has been a privilege to host and I thank all the contributors for their fantastic submissions.



Robert Service – A geologist’s poet

There are strange things done in the midnight sun

By the men who moil for gold;

The Arctic trails have their secret tales

That would make your blood run cold;

The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,

But the queerest they ever did see

Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge

I cremated Sam McGee.

My submission for the Accretionary Wedge #51, which I am also hosting, is about my favourite poet of all time: Robert Service. Robert Service was born on January 16, 1874 in Preston, England. He immigrated to Canada at the age of 21 and after working odd jobs for a while throughout British Columbia and California he landed a job as a banker with the Canadian Bank of Commerce who, in 1904, sent Service to their Whitehorse branch. Although already a published poet, it was in Whitehorse that he established himself as one of the premier poets of his day. It was from this point on that Robert Service became the voice of the Klondike Gold Rush and hereafter known as the “Bard of the Yukon”. In 1908 he relocated to Dawson City, which was the heart of the gold rush and still booming even though most of the claiming had been done earlier in the decade. Indeed, in 1908 Dawson claims produced 174,000 ounces of gold (they still produce around 50,000 ounces/year).

The Bank of British North America and the infamous Downtown Hotel (lots of fun to be had in there!) in Dawson City. (Photo: Matt Herod)

Robert Service lived in Dawson until 1912, writing poetry full time in his cabin, which is preserved by Parks Canada as a historic site…like the rest of Dawson. He then moved to Europe during the war years and passed away in 1958.

Robert Service’s cabin (Photo: Matt Herod)

The ballads and poems of Robert Service are my all time favourites. As someone who has been to the Yukon several times they resonate quite strongly for this reason alone. However, even before I was lucky enough to travel there I still loved them. They speak to me on several levels. Firstly, as a fan of Canadian history they invoke the feeling of the gold rush, an important time in Canada, far more effectively than any story or non-fiction ever has. They also speak to me as a geologist. These days gold rushes are more like staking wars between junior mining companies than individual races by men from across Canada and the world to a far flung and wild place. They certainly do not bear any resemblance to the old methods of prospecting, staking or mining gold and poems such as these bring those old days back to life. As modern geologists it would not do to forget our heritage. Today we use sophisticated geochemical and geophysical methods to find gold and it is easy to forget about the blood, sweat and tears of the early Klondikers and the only way to appreciate what we take for granted today is to learn about what the old methods were. The poems of Robert Service bring those days to life in my mind and enhance my appreciation for the evolution of gold prospecting and mining throughout the past 100 years.

For this wedge I also encouraged people to write their own poetry and so I figured that as the host I had better put my money where my mouth is. I am taking a course in glacial sedimentology this semester and TA’ing Quaternary geology so I have glaciers on the brain a little bit right now, which is not altogether a bad thing. I hope you enjoy my poem.

Beautiful flowing stream of ice;

blue, grey, brown and white;

squeezing the land in a powerful vice;

with enormous might;

blanketing the nations in a cold embrace;

creeping forward, toward your toe;

scraping the land at your base;

shaping it like a colossal fresco

receding, advancing, apparently still

yet always in motion, inexorably flowing

Striations, rat-tails, whale-backs, till

Eroding, depositing, always sculpting

Recording chemistry for untold millenia

helium, carbon, oxygen, hydrogen

revealing past climate data

cracking, calving into the salty ocean

Glacier, you are a mighty power

Coming and going throughout Earth’s past

flowing like a mountainous white tower

when is the next ice age forecast?

If you want to listen to some real poetry now that you’ve read mine I recommend the recital of The Cremation of Sam Magee below by the amazing Johnny Cash. I was pretty stoked to find a recital of this great poem by such a fantastic musician as well. It is kind of an awesome double although he does say “toil” instead of “moil”, but it is a minor mistake and doesn’t really matter.

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Thanks for reading and remember, the deadline for AW#51 is coming up on November 1 so get your submissions in!!