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From the Field

Poems and Sketches by Jon Charles Coe


I have always been interested in landscape, it runs in the family. While I make my living conceiving synthetic landscapes, my greatest interest is in the wild. In order to create landscapes, we must know the real thing. There are many ways of knowing. When I have the opportunity to visit a wild landscape, study a great tree, or observe wildlife, I learn from scientists – botanists, zoologists, geologists, ecologists. I learn Latin names. When I can, I learn a little from local people too. Masai people in Africa. Arrente people in Australia. I take scores of photographs and keep journals. Drawing with pencil or pen is also a way to know a place or thing so I sketch as often as possible. And writing poems is also a way to know, a bridge between science and emotion.

Usually the poems come unbidden. A line or two flashes into consciousness, quickly followed by entire verses as I sketch or later, on the long drives between places. I jot them down in the journal, rarely picking the subject, never knowing the ending. It is a spontaneous process with very little labor. Somewhere inside, powerful sensory and intellectual inputs are tumbled around and eventually burst forth in the form of nearly complete verse. This may occur in just moments or after months.

The field sketches presented here are not altered later; neither are the poems.  For this reason, I call them “field poems.”

Here are the links to PDF files of the individual poems.  Those not up on their natural history may find the introductory notes useful.  Alternately click on the title to download the entire book From the Field which is 3.34mb.

    African Savanna

    Ngorongoro Crater is an ancient crater ten miles wide and teeming with wildlife in Tanzania, East Africa. We begin on the crater rim, with its magnificent panoramic view, then descend into the crater for a closer look.

    Soit Ayai, like Ngorongoro, is a Masai place name. Soit Ayai is a kopje, a great granite rock pile rising like an island in a sea of grass in Tanzania.

    Naabi Hill is a prominent lookout point in an otherwise vast, flat region of the Serengeti Plain Game Reserve in Tanzania.

    The Mara River traverses the celebrated Serengeti Plain Game Reserve in Kenya, East Africa.

    Nduto Lake in Tanzania is known for its fat, clever lions.

    Lake Manyara lies along the Great Rift escarpment in Tanzania.

    Baobab, Baobab’s Sister, Baobab’s Brothers. Sometimes trees are more than just trees, rocks are more than rocks and elephants are seen in surprising places.

    Samburu Lions, Leopard in A Parking Lot and Samburu Impala express the excitement and ambivalence of safari drives.

    For some reason I was under-impressed by Oldavi Gorge.

    African Rainforest

    Microberlina. Giant redwoods are not the only ancient trees in the world. But since annual rings do not develop in the wood of many tropical trees, their ages may be impossible to determine.

    Orchid Fall. This poem was written while studying the Microberlina and so they are given together.

    The Pool at Camp One continues the celebration of small things with beautiful names.

    The Elephant Encounter describes how the forest can be hypnotic, dulling the senses to danger.


Jewel of the Thai Forest. Small things can be the most beautiful and memorable.

Sumatran Rhino. The conservationists dilemma.

Image of India – Orchids Passing. People under the tropical sun can be beautiful.

Chinese New Year




Guanica is a dry forest reserve on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico where the Guayanan Centenario, an ancient Ligna vite tree is found. Sapo conco is the local name for the rare crested toad also found there.

Hybrid Rusti, like Sumatran Rhino, expresses the ambiguity and ambivalence inherent in modern conservation and care of endangered species.

A Wrack of Eagles encapsulates a surprise encounter with our own throwaway society.

Flooded Forest and Flooded Marsh relate lessons from an Amazon River cruise.

Santuario do Carasas in Brazil, red wolves entertain tourists.

FLT #140, Seat 24E. You can’t visit these wonderful places without spending a lot of time in airliners, like this flight in 1980.

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From the Field
Poems & Sketches by Jon Charles Coe

Jon Charles Coe, FASLA
Principal • Jon Coe Design, Pty. Ltd.
250 Mt. Riddell Road, Healesville, VIC 3777 Australia
Published on the web May 2007

© July 2007

Jon pictured with gorillas in Africa

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Sketch of elephant head by Jon Coe.

Sketch: Jon Coe



Iridescent green tree viper pictured.

Photo: Jon Coe

© Copyright 2004 Jon Coe Design Pty Ltd  –

250 Mt. Riddell Road, Healesville VIC 3777 Australia – +03 5962 1339