The use of poetry, quotes, and stories in a presentation can be very effective in public speaking. They can help make your audience feel comfortable with you, get across images and strengthen points, and help keep your audience involved and interested. You might find something that would fit into your presentation among the following selection of quotes and poems. Pull out lines and stanzas to introduce a new section of your talk or article, or use quoted lines in your overheads for example. You may use a quote to play a game with the audience — use lines from a famous person and ask if anyone can tell you whom the author is. If you do not want to use poetry or quotes in your presentation or articles, you may just find that you enjoy reading them and they inspire some ideas of your own.

- Bruce Babbitt (US Secretary of the Interior), September 30, 1998 Austin, Texas
- Iris Murdoch
- John Burroughs (#1)
- John Muir
- Rachel Carson, Excerpted from Silent Spring, Chapter 10 (1962)
- Howard Ensign Evans
- Henry Ward Beecher
- Diane Ackerman
- Henry Theodore Tuckerman
- Pliny the Elder
- Walt Whitman, Excerpted from Specimen Days (1882)
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Thaddeus William Harris
- Gilbert White
- Hector St. John de Crevecoeur
- Annie Dillard
- Cynthia Ozick
- Sue Hubbell
- John Gay
- Charles Darwin
- Edwin Way Teale
- John Burroughs (#2)
- William Beebe (American naturalist and explorer)

- William Shakespeare
- Lord Alfred Tennyson
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- Goethe, Excerpted from the Holy Longing, translated by Robert Bly (1814)
- William Blake
- John Keats, To Autumn (1819)
- Mary Oliver, Excerpted from One or Two Things
- Emily Dickinson “Within My Garden, Rides a Bird”


Pollinators: These hardworking heroes of nature are not well understood but are clearly in peril. Loss of habitat, poisonings, and fragmentation of plant life on which they depend is reducing the number of pollinators alarmingly.
US Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt,
September 30, 1998 speech, Austin, Texas

People from a planet without wild flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have the things about us.
Iris Murdoch

One cannot praise the pond-lily; his best words mar it, like the insects that eat its petals: but he can contemplate it as it opens in the morning sun and distills such perfume, such purity, such snow of petal and such gold of anther, from the dark water and still darker ooze.
John Burroughs

A little higher, almost at the very head of the pass, I found the blue arctic daisy and purple-flowered bryanthus, the mountain's own darlings, gentle mountaineers face to face with the sky, kept safe and warm by a thousand miracles, seeming always the finer and purer the wilder and stormier their homes.
John Muir

Such vegetation is also the habitat of wild bees and other pollinating insects. Man is more dependent on these wild pollinators than he usually realizes. Even the farmer himself seldom understands the value of wild bees and often participates in the very measures that rob him of their services. Some agricultural crops and many wild plants are partly or wholly dependent on the services of the native pollinating insects. Several hundred species of wild bees take part in the pollination of cultivated crops — 100 species visiting the flowers of alfalfa alone. Without insect pollination, most of the soil-holding and soil-enriching plants of unclutivated areas would die out, with far-reaching consequences to the ecology of the whole region. Many herbs, shrubs, and trees of the forests and range depend on native insects for their reproduction; without these plants many wild animals and range stock would find little food. Now clean cultivation and the chemical destruction of hedgerows and weeds are eliminating the last sanctuaries of these pollinating insects and breaking the threads that bind life to life.
Rachel Carson, Excerpted from Silent Spring, Chapter 10 (1962)

Can anything compare to the sight of the first yellow violets blooming along a woodland path? These most fragile of plants are yet hardy enough to bloom when nights are still frosty and snow still lingers in the ravines.
Howard Ensign Evans

What a pity flowers can utter no sound! — A singing rose, a whispering violet, a murmuring honeysuckle, -oh, what a rare and exquisite miracle would these be!
Henry Ward Beecher

A flower's fragrance declares to all the world that it is fertile, available, and desirable, its sex organs oozing with nectar. Its smell reminds us in vestigial ways of fertility, vigor, life-force, all the optimism, expectancy, and passionate bloom of youth. We inhale its ardent aroma and, no matter what our ages, we feel young and nubile in a world aflame with desire.
Diane Ackerman

To analyze the charms of flowers is like dissecting music; it is one of those things which it is far better to enjoy, than to attempt fully to understand.
Henry Theodore Tuckerman

Nature is to be found in her entirety nowhere more than in her smallest creatures.
Pliny the Elder (Roman Scholar)


Nature marches in procession, in sections, like the corps of an army. All have done much for me, and still do. But for the last two days it has been the great wild bee, the humblebee, or "bumble," as the children call him. As I walk, or hobble, from the farmhouse down to the creek, I traverse the before-mentioned lane, fenced by old rails, with many splits, splinters, breaks, holes, etc., the choice habitat of those crooning, hairy insects. Up and down and by and between these rails, they swarm and dart and fly in countless myriads. As I wend slowly along, I am often accompanied with a moving cloud of them. They play a leading part in my morning, mid-day, or sunset rambles, and often dominate the landscape in a way I never before thought of — fill the long lane, not by scores or hundreds only, but by thousands. Large and vivacious and swift, with wonderful momentum and a loud swelling perpetual hum, varied now and then by something almost like a shriek, they dart to and fro, in rapid flashes, chasing each other, and (little things as they are) conveying to me a new and pronounced sense of strength, beauty, vitality, and movement. As I write this, two or three weeks later, I am sitting near the brook under a tulip tree, 70 feet high, thick with the fresh verdure of its young maturity — a beautiful object — every branch, every leaf perfect. From top to bottom, seeking the sweet juice in the blossoms, it swarms with myriads of these wild bees, whose loud and steady humming makes an undertone to the whole, and to mood and the hour.
Walt Whitman, Excerpted from Specimen Days (1882)

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is much to be discovered and to astonish in magnifying an insect as a star.
Thaddeus William Harris

The most insignificant insects and reptiles are of much more consequence, and have much more influence in the economy of nature, than the incurious are aware of; and are mighty in their effect, from their minuteness, which renders them less an object of attention; and from their numbers and fecundity.
Gilbert White (English Clergyman)

Most elegantly finished in all parts, [the hummingbird] is a miniature work of our Great Parent, who seems to have formed it the smallest, and at the same time the most beautiful of the winged species.
Hector St. John de Crevecoeur (French-born American farmer and writer)

[Insects] are not only cold-blooded, and green- and yellow-blooded, but are also cased in a clacking horn. They have rigid eyes and brains strung down their backs. But they make up the bulk of our comrades-at-life, so I look to them for a glimmer of companionship.
Annie Dillard (American writer)


The butterfly lures us not only because he is beautiful, but because he is transitory. The caterpillar is uglier, but in him we can regard the better joy of becoming.
Cynthia Ozick (American writer)

Then there is that other appeal, the stronger one, of spending, during certain parts of the year, a ten- or twelve- hour working day with bees, which are, when all is said and done, simply a bunch of bugs. But spending my days in close and intimate contact with creatures who are structured so differently from humans, and who get on with life in such a different way, is like being a visitor in an alien but ineffably engaging world.
Sue Hubbell (American beekeeper and writer)

And what's a butterfly? At best, He's a caterpillar, drest.
John Gay (English poet and playwright)

Who when examining in the cabinet of the entomologist the gay and exotic butterflies, and singular cicadas, will associate with these lifeless objects, the ceaseless harsh music of the latter, and the lazy flight of the former — the sure accompaniments of the still, glowing noonday of the tropics.
Charles Darwin

To those whom the tree, the birds, the wildflowers represent only "locked-up dollars" have never known or really seen these things.
Edwin Way Teale

The honey-bee's great ambition is to be rich, to lay up great stores, to possess the sweet of every flower that blooms. She is more than provident. Enough will not satisfy her; she must have all she can get by hook or by crook.
John Burroughs

To write honestly and with conviction anything about the migration of birds, one should oneself have migrated. Somehow or other we should dehumanize ourselves, feel the feel of feathers on our body and wind in our wings, and finally know what it is to leave abundance and safety and daylight and yield to a compelling instinct, age-old, seeming at the time quite devoid of reason and object.
William Beebe (American naturalist and explorer)



I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania some time of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight.
William Shakespeare

Flowered in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower — but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
Lord Alfred Tennyson

I knew the birds and insects,
which looked fathered by the flowers,
butterflies, that bear upon their blue wings
such red embers round
They seem to scorch the blue air into holes
Each flight they take.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (English poet)

Distance does not make you falter,
now, arriving in magic, flying,
and, finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven't experienced
this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.
Goethe, Excerpted from The Holy Longing, translated by Robert Bly (1814)


To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
William Blake

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
John Keats, To Autumn (1819)

The butterfly's loping flight
carries it through the country of the leaves
delicately, and well enough to get it
where it wants to go, wherever that is, stopping
here and there to fuzzle the damp throats
of flowers and the black mud; up
and down it swings, frenzied and aimless; and sometimes
for long delicious moments it is perfectly
lazy, riding motionless in the breeze on the soft stalk
of some ordinary flower.
Mary Oliver, Excerpted from One or Two Things

Within my Garden, rides a Bird
Upon a single Wheel --
Whose spokes a dizzy Music make
As 'twere a travelling Mill --

He never stops, but slackens
Above the Ripest Rose --
Partakes without alighting
And praises as he goes,

Till every spice is tasted --
And then his Fairy Gig
Reels in remoter atmospheres --
And I rejoin my Dog,

And He and I, perplex us,
If positive, 'twere we --
Or bore the Garden in the Brain
This Curiosity --

But He, the best Logician,
Refers my clumsy eye --
To just vibrating Blossoms!
An Exquisite Reply!
Emily Dickinson “Within My Garden, Rides a Bird”