Visitors to Totem Bight State Historical Park in Ketchikan now have an opportunity to experience the poetry of two Juneau writers, Ernestine Hayes and Emily Wall, through recently installed park signage bearing the women’s poems, part of the Alaska Center for the Book’s Poems in Place project.
Original poems by both women were unveiled during a dedication ceremony Sunday in Ketchikan, following a creative writing workshop on Saturday that focused on landscape-inspired poetry and prose. Sunday’s dedications took place at the park’s Clan House, and included a welcome from the Haida Descendant Dancers and readings by the poets.
Wall’s poem, “This Forest, This Beach, You,” was written specifically for the site, and Hayes’ poem, “The Spoken Forest,” is an excerpt from a longer work. Both women are professors of English at the University of Alaska Southeast.
The Poems in Place project, organized by Homer writer Wendy Erd, is a statewide collaboration between the Alaska Center for the Book and Alaska State Parks that highlights the connection between poetry and place. This year’s installations also include two poems in the Chena River State Recreational Area near Fairbanks: Frank Soos’ “The Blue Fish,” and the late John Haines’ “Poem of the Forgotten.”
Two new parks will be selected in 2014 and 2015.
The project is supported by Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Alaska Humanities Forum, Rasmuson Foundation, the Usibelli Foundation, the Alaska Poetry League, Alaska Center for the Book, and numerous individuals.
For more on this project, visit juneauempire.com/art/2013-06-06/poems-wall-and-hayes-be-installed-totem-bight-park#.Ui-25GArGhc. For more information, visit www.alaskacenterforthebook.org/id112.html.
Here is the text of both poems.
“This Forest, This Beach, You,” by Emily Wall
If you were a cedar
you would be waiting for rain to fall
or fall harder, relaxing your ten thousand needles.
If you were a handful of moss
you would be waiting for the light so you could
climb further up this rich, fallen log.
If you were a blue mussel
you would be waiting for the tide to rise
to open your lips, to sip.
What a world this is.
Close your eyes and inhale. Eat a little
of this air. Let it fill your belly. Let the taste of this place
always rest on your tongue.
“The Spoken Forest” by Ernestine Hayes
I was thinking about the forest one day
and it came to me—
are not lost.
All these riches are being kept for us
by our aunties, our uncles,
our grandparents, our relatives—
those namesakes who walk and dance
wearing robes that make them seem like bears and wolves.
Our loved ones.
Those beings who live in the spoken forest.
They are holding everything for us.