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Poetry of the Swamps: A Poetic Swampy Conundrum

Tim Truzy is a poet, short-story author, and he is currently working on several novels.

A swamp in eastern NC.

A swamp in eastern NC.

The Importance of Swamps

Swamps are areas where water accumulates because of the low-lying nature of the land. Although they can be treacherous, these environments serve useful purposes for humanity. Swamp lands absorb flood waters as well as collect pollutants. These important attributes of swamps aid with water purification for plants and animals. Indeed, the wildlife in many of these uncultivated places is diverse.

One such swamp, the Great Dismal Swamp, expands from North Carolina to Virginia for over one-hundred thousand square acres along the Atlantic coast. In the swamp, black bears, countless species of reptiles, and birds can be found. Trees such as pine, cedar, and cypress flourish in the wetland environment all year round. But these are merely some of the creatures in the swamp; we benefit from every amazing gift the swamp provides, including inspiration for writing and photography.

When we think of swamps, we think of how these environments remind us some areas of the world and life are not fully cultivated by mankind. For this reason, in literature, swamps may be symbolic of dangerous situations. Swamps may also represent confusion going on in towns, a character's life, or the present political climate. Swamps may indicate the presence of something wishing to remain undiscovered as well. I've written a poem below which pays tribute to swamps of the world in all their forms.

Poetry, Books, Movies, and Songs Featuring Swamps as a Setting

Famous songs, movies, poems, and many novels have arose from the inspiration swamps provide. For example, DC Comics has a superhero, Swamp Thing, who was on the big screen in several films in the 1980s. Also, the country artist Blake Shelton released a song in 2001 called, “Ol’ Red,” in which a prisoner escapes through the swamp to freedom. In 2007, the Charlie Daniels Band released “The Legend Of Wooley Swamp,” a tale about a ghostly man in the wetlands who held tight to his money. Finally, in a poetic work by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), entitled “Monadnoc,” the author skillfully relates the beauty of the swamp lands with our lives. But these are mere samples of creativity derived from these ecosystems , and below I’ve provided names of four more books for your examination if you desire:

  1. Balester, P. (2009). In the Dismal Swamp. Waterville, Me.: Thorndike Press.
  2. Bateman, D. M., & Lies, B. (2014). Deep in the swamp. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
  3. Fox, Andrew (2003). Fat White Vampire Blues. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
  4. Gailey, S. (2017). River of teeth. New York, NY: Tom Doherty Associates.


Part of the Great Dismal Swamp in eastern North Carolina.

Part of the Great Dismal Swamp in eastern North Carolina.

Swampy Conundrum

Draining immense swamps,

Staining my resolve,

Straining objectives,

Gaining pace dissolved.

“Stay from the muck!

Duck!” mother said,

“Play with water muddy,

Quicksand smothers the head.”

Gases raise the swamp,

Gasping my car,

Bogged from paved roads,

Swamp by the bar.

Gear wears tightly,

Right and left boots,

Step careful lightly,

Aim and don’t shoot.

Bugs swarm desk in marsh,

Bear hug ties in starch,

Vipers clad March in tarps,

Harp armed mosquitoes in dark.

Cypress trees rise from a deep water swamp in southeastern NC.

Cypress trees rise from a deep water swamp in southeastern NC.

Cypress wet swinging oaks,

Ropes bet bodies pine,

Fined strangled sinking votes,

Swamp stinging insects’ mine.

Reptiles’ bill tails,

Hell infecting hill,

Pillow quagmire,

Be dirty or stilled.

L’enfant anchored dry land,

Hand hammered to myth,

Fact slithered to phoniness,

Swamp fiction built.

Chewed up gators’ briefcase,

Sued crocs delay munch,

Ailing aisles filibuster,

Swamp savoring lunch.

A North Carolina swamp in winter.

A North Carolina swamp in winter.

Diversity of Creativity Using Swamps

Without question, swamps offer a wonderful setting to place a story or poem in for a writer. These wetlands are filled with mystery and surprises. For this reason, an author can draw upon the various features of swamps to write haunting fictional works or even tell a true story. Heroes and villains can emerge from the backdrop of swamps based on an author’s creativity. Below I’ve provided some symbolic meanings swamps represent in literary creations. However, an author may vary on themes and may use a swamp in a way not suggested here:

Some Symbolic Meanings of Swamps in Literature and Cinema

  • Wetlands in literature or films can suggest something supernatural or superhuman is amidst the dwellers of the area. Seclusion, exclusion, and secrecy can be themes of works using swamps as a setting. Danger and threatening tensions may also be present in such movies, novels, and poetry as well. Some works may include a theme of isolation and death symbolic by the presence of swamps.
  • Swamps could be used to represent the untamed aspect of a character or a group of individuals in a fictional or historic piece. Escaping from an imprisoning emotional or structural enclosure may be represented by a wetland environment in books or other creative works. Going to or leaving a swamp can be symbolic of freedom from chaos or confusion.
  • Likewise, depicting swampy environments can signify harmony with nature and suggest close family or community commitment. An author could be demonstrating a safe or protective perspective with such creations, too. Yet, the values of these characters may not match the norm, symbolizing a distinctive alternative view from the rest of the world.

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