Sunday, April 7, 2013


April rains did not dampen Union Mine High School's creative writing students' enthusiasm for writing en plein air on the Cronan Ranch Preserve. In the photograph, above, young writers describe the sounds and smells of the South Fork of the American River as it runs and eddies through land held in trust by the American River Conservancy.

Creative writing and environmental literature teacher Rich Kientz conceived this arts-integration project in which the process of writing poetry is used to explore the environmental concepts of watershed, and to help the students gain a greater sense of place. Rich garnered support for this residency from the American River Conservancy's Innovations in Environmental Education Fund and the El Dorado Arts Council.

On a personal level, this project provides me with an exciting opportunity. It allows me to integrate my own interests, education, and professional experience in the arts and environmental science.

Accompanying us on our poetry hike was the Conservancy's Environmental Education Specialist Lindsay Raber. She described not only the physical features of the landscape we were viewing but also the history of the place, including the peoples who lived here and how they interacted with the land, and the Conservancy's restoration efforts.

The following day it was Gold Trail Elementary's sixth graders who were writing outdoors, under the umbrella of an ancient oak on the Wakamatsu Colony Site.

This tea and silk colony was established on the Gold Hill Ranch by Japanese immigrants in 1869 and is immediately adjacent to the Gold Trail campus. The colony site was recently placed on the National Register of Historical Places at the level of "National Significance."

Borrowing a phrase from renowned poet Pablo Neruda, this was a day for the students to be "poets of the world," increasing and honing their sensory perception skills through direct observation of nature.

This arts residency is a collaboration between sixth-grade teacher Bill Beveridge, artist Andie Thrams and myself. It is supported by the El Dorado Arts Council and is part of the California Poets in the Schools' Poem On program.

I am both thrilled and honored to be the visiting poet for both of these residencies.

Under the leadership of the El Dorado Arts Council's Deb Jensen and Moira Magneson, the art of poetry is thriving in the foothills during National Poetry Month. Visit their website for a full listing of POEMPALOOZA Events. 

All of these exciting poetry activities come on the heels of another exceptional season of Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest.

El Dorado County's county-level winner, Connor Ricketts, recited his way to a First Runner Up finish in California's statewide contest. Quite an achievement.