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


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.

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See more poems in my poetry video library. 

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

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

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

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

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