Bloom: Botanically-Inspired Online Poetry Workshop

Wednesday, July 14, 2021, 7:00 pm

The Folger Shakespeare Library’s O.B. Hardison Poetry series and the U.S. Botanic Garden will partner to create two online poetry workshops entitled Bloom that explore the natural world through poetry. 

On Wednesday, July 14, 2021, poet Brenda Hillman will join USBG Horticulturist Adam Pyle for an online poetry workshop that will explore the natural world with prompts from the U.S. Botanic Garden. The workshop will focus on one of the many galleries inside the U.S. Botanic Garden: The Tropics, The Garden Primeval, the cacti of World Deserts, Medicinal Plants, and Orchids. 

Hillman and Pyle will probe the powerful link between the natural and poetic worlds. Following the discussion, workshop participants will hear the poet read her work as they begin to contemplate their own writing. Participants will take inspiration from a natural object within the Botanic Garden or from their own surroundings. Participants will have the opportunity to write their own poems as part of the workshop. 

The cost for the workshop is $75, with a discount for Folger and U.S. Botanic Garden members and Folger subscribers. 

Spaces in the workshop are available for Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) participants and for those who can only participate on a sliding scale. Please contact Teri Cross Davis for more information. 

This program is a collaboration with the Folger Shakespeare Library and the U.S. Botanic Garden.


Brenda Hillman has authored several full-length collections of poetry. Her most recent is Extra Hidden Life, among the Days. Her poems have also been collected in three chapbooks: The Firecage; Autumn Sojourn; and Coffee, 3 A.M. Her work has been called eclectic, mercurial, sensuous, and luminescent. Hillman’s poetry investigates and pushes at the possibilities of form and voice while remaining grounded in topics such as geology, the environment, politics, family, and spirituality.

Her honors include awards and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Society of America, along with a Bay Area Book Reviewer's Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award. Hillman received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship in 2012. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017 and was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2016.

By Brenda Hillman

Often visitors there, saddened
by lack of trees, go out
to a promontory.

Then, backed by the banded
sunset, the trail
of the Conquistadores,

the father puts on the camera,
the leather albatross,
and has the children

imitate saguaros. One
at a time they stand there smiling,
fingers up like the tines of a fork

while the stately saguaro
goes on being entered
by wrens, diseases, and sunlight.

The mother sits on a rock,
arms folded
across her breasts. To her

the cactus looks scared,
its needles
like hair in cartoons.

With its arms in preacher
or waltz position,
it gives the impression

of great effort
in every direction,
like the mother.

Thousands of these gray-green
cacti cross the valley:
nature repeating itself,

children repeating nature,
father repeating children
and mother watching.

Later, the children think
the cactus was moral,
had something to teach them,

some survival technique
or just regular beauty.
But what else could it do?

The only protection
against death
was to love solitude.


Brenda Hillman, “Saguaro” from Fortress. Copyright © 1989 by Brenda Hillman. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.


In partnership with the United States Botanic Garden

Steeped in history, rich with tradition, the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) is a living plant museum that informs visitors about the importance, and often irreplaceable value, of plants to the well-being of humans and to earth's fragile ecosystems. More than 200 years ago, George Washington had a vision for the capital city of the United States that included a botanic garden that would demonstrate and promote the importance of plants to the young nation. Established by the U.S. Congress in 1820, the U.S. Botanic Garden is the oldest continuously operating botanic garden in the United States. Since 1934, it has been administered through the Architect of the Capitol. 



Purchase Your Copy

The O.B. Hardison Poetry Series is pleased to partner with East City Bookshop, an independently run, women owned bookstore on Capitol Hill. Pickup is available at the shop, or they ship (almost) anywhere! Check their website,