Wendy Erd: Poems in Place

Two years ago a friend emailed me a photo from her son’s
cell phone the day after Kim Cornwall’s poem-sign, What Whales and Infants Know, was dedicated at Beluga Point. The
photo, taken beside that wind- swept pullout along Turnagain Arm, is of a woman
taking a photo of Kim’s newly installed poem. A moment recorded both by her and
of her.

I imagine the confluence of reader, poem, a certain stage of
the tide, a chill wind chunneling along the Chugach, her mood, the hour, all
conspired as William Stafford once said, 
to lift a poem rooted in place to an idea. Something she felt was worth
taking home and remembering. 

“It’s working,” wrote my friend who sent the photo. Along
with Alaska State Parks, the Alaska
State Council on the Arts, friends and supporters, we’d dreamed of sharing
Kim’s astonishing words in this particular place with others. We hoped
travelers might pause, read and discover something for themselves there. 

Perhaps like me, you are never far from poetry. I lug books
from Homer to Hanoi,
where I often work, willing to pay the extra baggage fees. For me, poems are
walking sticks to lean on. Indispensable.

Not so for most of my friends and relatives. When I ask if
they read poetry, they look a bit sheepish, shrug and say, “well no, not

What  might happen
then, when the old knowing that lives inside poetry marries the voices
of wind, river, forest, the pull of the tide, or the quiet
rhythm of a lake and is available to all who pass by?  What might happen when poems escape the
confines of book covers, libraries and English classes and are in conversation
with wild places where we love to linger?

A statewide
project called Poems in Place is
poised to answer this question. As Alaskan 
writers and readers, and hopefully contributors,  please read on.  A public call for poems that are rooted in a particular place will be launched January 1, 2013.

in Place
is a collaborative literary arts project that brings
together Alaska State Parks, the Alaska Center for the Book, a volunteer Poems
in Place Steering Committee of poets and writers and  ultimately the public of Alaska to discover,
create and place a poem in each of
Alaska’s six regional State Park Areas.

This project grew naturally from the first poem in place, What Whales and Infants Know by Kim
Cornwall,  dedicated at Beluga Point in Chugach
State Park

in May 2011.

From 2012- 2015, two poems a year will be placed
in six  Alaskan
State Park

regions: Mat-Su/ Copper
River Basin
Kenai, Northern/Interior, Southeast, Southwest, 
and Kodiak and or/Prince William Sound.
The first two poems (2012-2013) will find a home in Chena River State
Recreation Area above Fairbanks
(Northern/Interior) and at Totem Bight State Historical Park in Ketchikan

Alaskans, especially writers and readers of poetry, will be
invited to submit up to three poems each: poems created in response to the project
invitation, as well as work they may nominate by other Alaskan poets, living or
not, that resonates with one of these two places. An honorarium of $100 will be
paid for selected poems. 

The project is supported by Alaska State Council on the
Arts, the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Usibelli Foundation, the Alaska Poetry
League, the Alaska

for the Book, and numerous generous individuals. For more information or to
read the Beluga Point poem please visit:

3 thoughts on “Wendy Erd: Poems in Place”

  1. Standing here reading Wendy’s
    “ time lives differently here“ poem in the Homer Marsh, behind the storm berm, in the fog slowly burning off as giant cranes walk down the man-made path. makes me glad I stopped to read her beautiful poems along the way. I would’ve never seen the cranes, would’ve never had this moment.

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