Wendy Erd: Johnny Appleseeding Poems Across Alaska: Poems in Place

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Lily Lewis – Caines Head
A poem popped from between the covers of a book, posted on a
sign along a mountain trail or beside the shimmer of a lake, greets an
unsuspecting reader in a new frame of mind. In that moment, when weather and
traveler and language converge, magic is afoot.
Poems in Place, a statewide project
that sets poems on permanent signs in Alaska’s state parks, has seeded poetry
across the landscape.  Over the past two years,
poems written by Alaska writers have sprouted on signs in five of the state
park’s seven regions: above a boat landing at Lake Aleknagik, on a path near Independence
Mine’s boomtown, on a curve of the Chena River and outside a homestead cabin in
a northern stand of aspen. Poetry calls to visitors walking in a Ketchikan forest
near mussel beds and totem poles. The original Poems in Place sign braves whipping
winds at Beluga Point on Turnagain Arm.
We are about to begin our third and final year.  This year will complete our goal to seed poetry
signs in all seven of Alaska’s state park regions.
readers and writers in Alaska, please help us. We need you to complete our
vision of broadcasting poetry throughout the state.
From February 1 until
April 1, 2015, we are seeking poems for Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park,
Kodiak, and for Caines Head State Recreation Area, Seward
over eighteen years of age are encouraged to submit original work or to nominate poems
written by Alaska writers that find resonance with this year’s state parks.
There is no fee for submissions.  Honorariums will be paid to the winning
Poems in Place was inspired by William Stafford’s Methow River poems,
a series commissioned by the forest service and set on signs in the Methow
river valley. Our Alaska version was launched into being with the passing of a
fine Alaskan poet, Kim Cornwall, who loved Stafford’s work and the notion of
poetry set along a river. In 2011, Kim’s poem, What Whales and Infants Know, was dedicated at Beluga Point in
Chugach State Park.
in winte,r poems blossom. In December, Tom Sexton, one of last year’s winning
poets, received an email from a friend who’d read his poem while she was skiing
at Independence Mine State Historical Park.
2013 and 2014, poems written by Emily Wall and Ernestine Hayes were dedicated
in Totem Bight State Park in Ketchikan. Poems by Frank Soos and John Haines
were set in Chena River State Recreation Area, near Fairbanks. Tom Sexton’s
poem graces a trail in Independence Mine State Historical Park near Palmer, and
a poem by Tim Troll can be read at Lake Aleknagik State Recreation Area, near
Dillingham. In June 2015, a second copy of Troll’s poem will be installed at
remote Lake Agulapak in Wood Tikchik State Park.
Poems in
Place is collaboration between Alaska State Parks, Alaska Center for the Book,  and a steering committee of poets and writers and the residents of Alaska. It is
supported by the Rasmuson Foundation, the Alaska Humanities Forum, Alaska State
Council on the Arts, the Usibelli Foundation, the Alaska Poetry League, the Alaska
Center for the Book, Alaska State Parks and numerous generous individuals.
To see current poems in place and to
access rules and the entry form for this year’s Poem in Place, visit 

Please rustle up the seeds of long attention, a fondness for place and language, and send us a poem, or two or three to plant in the parks.  We look forward to reading your submissions!

Erd’s most recent poetry appears on signs along the Beluga Slough
Trail in
Homer. With the help of an amazing committee of writers, poets and

Parks personnel, she coordinates Poems in Place.

One Comment on “Wendy Erd: Johnny Appleseeding Poems Across Alaska: Poems in Place”

  1. We traveled through much of Alaska last year.
    The Kenai, The Mountain, Nome, and more.
    Wendy Erd’s poetry-in-place is another of Alaska’s treasures.
    David and Fran Clapp

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