Words of Preservation: Poets Laureate National Parks Tour
We are karla k. morton and Alan Birkelbach
We are two Texas Poets Laureate and this is our quest.
For three years, in celebration of our National Parks’ 100th Anniversary,
we have been planning our National Parks Tour – to visit 50 Parks, write a book of poetry about the Parks, and give a percentage of the books sales back to the National Parks Foundation.
We began searching for funding, unsuccessfully, through organizations such as the Guggenheim, etc, but, unwilling to wait any longer for financial support, we began our Tour, visiting Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks in June, 2016. We kicked off the adventure with an interview on NPR at the University of Wyoming, then visited the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Mesa Verde.
Already the magic began opening on the first day of arrival: for the first time in 68 years a full moon rose on the solstice—and it appeared for us over Yellowstone Lake.
We can't wait to share that photo!
On that trip we saw wonders of geysers and the immensity of Lamar Valley.
We were close enough to smell the musk of Buffalo.
We witnessed a pillar of rainbow.
We happened upon the grave of Sacajawea.
We picked up a coon-tail rattlesnake.
We would like to invite everyone to come along!
Like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and John Muir before us,
We would emphasize this environmental treasure.
Through our words we would help preserve and protect.
The National Park Service helps maintain a cultural heritage.
Civilization is maintained and preserved by communication and language.
We intend to be two Poets Laureate exploring, and writing poems about the beauty of the National Parks.
Certain things should never fall out of social consciousness. In this digital age there is no replacement for nature at its most profound. Wonder cannot be exported or imported, but it can be captured with words—and those words can travel unlimited miles.
Society is becoming more and more an urban world. The Parks are a gift, a legacy, something uniquely American. What better way to instill respect and inspiration to our fellow man than by bringing these beauties, in the form of books, into the four walls of his home.
We believe poetry is every man’s art, just as the National Parks are every man’s inheritance.
“The poem has the power,” Edward Hirsch says, “the almost magical potential, to release something that dwells deep within us.” As a society we need these sacred spaces. To bring the awareness of those spaces back into the world restores the virtues of honor, nurturing, and protection. Out of these two books of poetry will perpetuate historical moments and places.
This Tour is a union of nature and the arts. In Wordsworth’s Guide to the Lakes, he stated the importance of protecting these national properties, “in which every man has a right and interest, who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy.”
Poetry is our way to cherish this bounty; to gift it to the next seven generations.
The National Parks are priceless, and without doubt, America’s greatest resources.
These lands, while under the preservation of the government, still need champions, still need those who are willing to give their time and hearts to make sure they continue to be protected. Like Homer recounting the journey of Odysseus, we long to be the eyes and ears for the homebound, to bring our tales back to the hearth.
We are certainly not the first artists who believe inspiration can come through great natural beauty, who have fallen in love with the grandeur of our National Parks, but we want to take it one step further and try to do something incredible – to infuse that beauty into the written word – the eternal language of poetry.
Welcome to our adventure.
The wild is calling.
kk and Alan