Walk with ‘Keeper of the Earth’

Poet, storyteller, novelist and short story writer Joseph Bruchac will walk the Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail at Greenway Meadows Park on Friday, April 15th, 4:30 pm. The walk will be followed by a reception and book signing at 6 p.m., and at 7 p.m., Bruchac will read from Above the Line and Ndakinna (West End Press) and No Borders (Holy Cow Press).

This will be the first major poetry event held on the McVay Poetry Trail since its dedication in fall 2010.

“Our thought is that some of the living poets whose work is seen on the trail will, in the months and years ahead, come for a visit and perhaps give a reading to affirm the link between observant poetry and the natural world,” say Hella and Scott McVay, sponsors of Bruchac’s visit. “Joseph is a wonderful exemplar of what the trail is all about, and an appealing performer of the first rank.”

Bruchac was chosen as Poet-in-Residence at the Little Rock Zoo, one of five zoos selected by Poets House and the Wildlife Conservation Society for the program “Language of Conservation,” funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In this role, Bruchac chooses poetry to bring visitors, especially children, closer to the animals and inspire their conservation in the wild, just as the McVays’ selection of poems bring visitors to Greenway Meadows Park closer to land conservation.

For more than 30 years, Bruchac has been creating poetry, short stories, novels, anthologies and music that reflect his Abenaki Indian heritage and Native American traditions. He is the author of more than 70 books for adults and children. The best-selling Keepers of the Earth, Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children and others in his “Keepers” series bring together science and folklore.

Bruchac lives in the Adirondack foothills of Greenfield Center, N.Y., in the same house where his maternal grandparents raised him.  Much of his writing draws on that land and his Abenaki ancestry.  His lifelong interest in the natural world has been a frequent focus in his writing. He has edited a number of highly praised anthologies of contemporary poetry, including Songs from this Earth on Turtle’s Back and Breaking Silence (winner of an American Book Award). Bruchac’s honors include a Rockefeller Humanities fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship for Poetry, the Hope S. Dean Award for Notable Achievement in Children’s Literature and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas.

Bruchac’s poem “Prayer” is “a window to the spirit of the trail,  and the soul of his lifework,” say the McVays:

Let my words/

be bright with animals/

images the flash of a gull’s wing./

If we pretend/

that we are at the center,/

that moles and kingfishers,/

eels and coyotes/

are at the edge of grace,/

then we circle, dead moons/

about a cold sun./

This morning I ask only/

the blessing of the crayfish,/

the beatitude of the birds;/

to wear the skin of the bear/

in my songs;/

to work like a man with my hands.

These words of Bruchac, along with others, can be found on signs throughout the McVay Poetry Trail in Greenway Meadows Park. The trail was dedicated in the fall of 2010. The mile-long path begins at an allée of century-old hybrid sycamore trees, moves up the hill past newly planted American chestnuts and loops a meandering mile down through a meadow.   Forty-eight poems feature the work of poets from 10 countries and cultures. The common thread is the poet’s close read of some aspect of the natural world. The Poetry Trail speaks to the symbiotic relationship between art and nature. The trail is easily accessed from the lower parking lot at Greenway Meadows. Walk up the path, past the playground and soccer fields, and look for an allee of sycamore trees. Maps of the area are available.

The Joseph Bruchac walk, reception and poetry reading are free and open to the public. Call to register: 609-924-4646.

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One Response to Walk with ‘Keeper of the Earth’

  1. Carolyn Foote Edelmann says:

    Ilene, this is simply splendid of you. Thank you so very much for bringing this miracle, thie opportunity not only to walk the McVay Poetry Trail with a legendary poet, but with a Native American! – to the public. It should be a grand afternoon and evening, and I hope D&R Greenway will be blessed by your presence.

    Your very grateful,
    Carolyn (Foote Edelmann)
    Arts & Education Associate, D&R Greenway Land Trust

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