National Endangered Species Day: “Polar Bear” by J. Patrick Lewis

May 16, 2014 17 Comments by Renee M. LaTulippe


Today Is National Endangered Species Day! 

To commemorate the day and raise awareness of one such animal, J. Patrick Lewis sent along his wonderful poem “Polar Bear,” which I am happy to present.

The poem prompted me to look into the polar bear situation a bit more. According to, there are only “20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in the world. In May 2008, the U.S listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, citing sea ice losses in the Arctic from global warming as the single biggest threat to polar bears.”

I cannot imagine a world without polar bears and penguins. If only a poem could save them.

Polar Bear

Ursus maritimus
Arctic landmass; Alaska, Canada
Russia, Greenland, and Norway.
Population decreasing

Call me Polar Bear, but beauty, fierceness,
courage, and my surroundings have brought
out the poet in the flesh walkers.

To Russians, I am simply White Bear;
to Danes, Ice Bear; for many, Sea Bear.
Among the Inuit, I am Nanuk,
the animal worthy of great respect,
or The Ever-wandering One.

Norsemen, who wear imagination like a garment,
hail me Sailor of the Icebergs, White Sea Deer,
Whale’s Curse, Seal’s Dread. Their poets say
I have the strength of twelve men
and the wits of eleven.

Siberia’s Ket people esteem all bears.
To them I am Grandfather.

The Lapp people point to me and say,
God’s Dog or Old Man in the Fur Coat.
So intelligent, those Lapps.

Remember all my names—or none.
I am the specter on disappearing sea ice,
losing hold.

J. Patrick Lewis


Home floats away

For more information on Endangered Species Day events, check out the Endangered Species Coalition.


And to celebrate all animals, endangered and un-, I highly recommend Pat’s anthology The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry. This is a favorite in our house for its incredible photos and two hundred poems by all your favorite poets!


Thank you for sharing your poem, Pat!




Mamma Bear Liz Steinglass has the roundup over at her place.

You’d like to receive my weekly posts in your inbox, you say? Well, just sign up in email box on the sidebar to your right!

See more poems in my poetry video library. 

“Polar Bear” copyright © J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.

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  1. Matt Forrest
    3 years ago

    Touching poem! Thanks for sharing, Renee. Like you, I can’t imagine a world without the Ice Bear.


  2. Wendy Greenley
    3 years ago

    I didn’t know there was an Endangered species Day! I enjoyed today’s poem. Beauty is worth preservation.


  3. Jennifer Kirkeby
    3 years ago

    Thank you, Renee! Animals are sooo important, and what a lovely way to be reminded of their beauty!


  4. jama
    3 years ago

    The polar bear’s plight is heartbreaking. Magnificent, touching poem.


  5. Michelle Heidenrich Barnes
    3 years ago

    Animal endangerment (especially polar bears and giant pandas) and global warming are probably the two causes closest to my daughter’s heart and many of her friends’ as well. I only hope that the ice won’t melt before their generation are the ones to make laws that will protect our planet. “Remember all my names—or none./I am the specter on disappearing sea ice,/losing hold.” Yes, that’s what I mean. Thank you J. Patrick Lewis, and to Renee as well for posting it so beautifully.


    • ariona
      2 years ago

      nice poem


  6. B.J. Lee
    3 years ago

    wonderful poem! I loved all the different names for the polar bear! I didn’t know there was a national endangered species day either.


  7. Joy Acey
    3 years ago

    Thanks for teaching me all the names for a polar bear.


  8. Liz
    3 years ago

    Wow. That is just lovely. I like the idea of looking at the bear from so many cultural points of view. And the end is just heart breaking.


  9. DianaM
    3 years ago

    Lovely (and educational) poem with a poignant ending and a worthy purpose. And the photo matches perfectly! Interesting to read about the many names.


  10. Teresa Robeson
    3 years ago

    Made me teary eyed. I’ve been supporting charities that help (if that’s even possible) polar bears for a number of years, but sometimes, it seems so futile.

    On a lighter note, this post reminds me of Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, which did make me smile.

    Lovely poem!


  11. Tarae
    3 years ago

    Lovely and sad…so sad. Especially this week with more bad news about the ice caps.


  12. Karin Fisher-Golton
    3 years ago

    What a beautiful, heartbreaking poem. I love the connection to all those cultures.


  13. Myra from GatheringBooks
    3 years ago

    Hi Renee, I remember watching this OmniTheatre special at the Science Museum in Boston about polar bears and how that short documentary has deeply moved me. J. Patrick Lewis has perfectly captured the magnificence of the Polar Bear, “To them I am Grandfather.” Thank you for sharing this glorious poem, Renee.


  14. Laura Purdie Salas
    3 years ago

    This is gorgeous! I always love hearing the different names for things. Seal’s Dread, indeed. Renee, have you read Waiting for Ice–Sandra Markle, I think. Wonderful polar bear picture book!

    Thanks, Renee and Pat!


  15. Robyn Campbell
    3 years ago

    Oh, this was magnificent. I cannot imagine a world without polar bears and penguins, either. Tigers and so many other beautiful creatures are disappearing. What would our world be like without them? 🙁 I’m off to write a poem about them. Because I can. Thanks to you.


One Trackback

  1. By Welcome! | Elizabeth Steinglass on May 16, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    […] Today is National Endangered Species Day. J. Patrick Lewis sent Renee LaTulippe his poem “Polar Bear” to share on her blog No Water River. […]

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