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201 W. Mifflin Street
Madison, WI

May 2015

Wild at Heart:  Nature Writing in the City / PilaR Gómez-Ibáñez


In Nature Writing in the City, we explored questions about how we find our material in the first place:  How can we observe the natural world more clearly and attentively, especially when it feels hidden under the rush of urban life?  How can we call up our memories, spark our thoughts?  And what if we throw drawing into the mix – can it sharpen our gaze and deepen our reflection?

Together, we read nature poems, noticing how they looked both inward and outward, rich with precise observation.  We talked about drawing – many of us had drawn a lot as kids, but stopped as we grew older – and looked for inspiration at artists’ journals and scientists’ field notes, full of detailed and beautiful sketches.  Then we headed out to the Capitol Square to take our own “field notes.”  We sketched and wrote, trying to absorb and record impressions from all our senses.

The second week, we drew “memory maps” of outdoor places that were meaningful to us in childhood, exploring the way memories can bubble up when you daydream deeply.  Could we evoke half-forgotten stories as we traced a remembered landscape in our minds?

Finally, using the raw material we’d gathered, we began crafting our own nature poems or stories.  I hope everyone went forth with a handful of ideas for a great summer of writing!

Nature writing may remind us of exotic, sparsely populated landscapes - jungles, glaciers, deserts.  But right in the middle of our Midwestern city, we can find the pulse of the natural world. Interesting ideas can spring up at the edges where the human and wild worlds meet. In this class, we'll use both writing and drawing exercises to practice slowing down and closely observing the world around us. We’ll make excursions to the Capitol grounds to wander, gaze, write, and sketch. Back at the Bubbler, we’ll read, talk, share ideas, and start shaping the observations we’ve gathered. Take from this class a refreshed sense of the art of seeing, and some vivid new material for your writing.

Instructor: Pilar Gómez Ibáñez lives and writes in Madison, Wisconsin. She has taught poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction workshops at Cornell University and at UW-Madison, where she was a Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow. She has also worked as an editor, human resources administrator, and (very briefly) as the asthmatic secretary for a smoke-filled welding company. Since her earliest days eagerly awaiting the arrival of the weekly Bookmobile in rural Dane County, she has been a huge fan of the public library system.

Saturdays, May 2, 9, and 16 from 3:00-4:30pm

Each workshop is free with advance registration. We encourage you to attend all consecutive sessions with the instructor, but it is not mandatory. Registration will open one month before the first session and end one day before the first session. Once each class fills, there will be a short wait list. If you have any questions about signing up for classes, please contact volunteer workshop coordinator, Aaron Fai at

This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.