A Walk with Words, the Poetry Walk at Niquette Bay State Park

By Guest Blogger Lisa Liotta, Park Manager at Niquette Bay 


When Penny Cunningham, the Adult Services Librarian at Colchester’s Burnham Memorial Library, contacted me in May of 2015 and enthusiastically shared her vision of the Poetry Walk at Niquette Bay State Park, I was immediately intrigued. Penny had experienced Anne Ferguson’s Storywalk® project for children, which Niquette Bay and other Vermont State Parks have featured in prior years, and she was inspired to create a similar walk with poetry, mostly for an older audience.  Penny’s idea was simply perfect for Niquette Bay which is already a natural gem and true oasis for appreciating nature in Vermont. Poets have long received inspiration from nature, why not feature poetry in situ?

Together, Penny and I drew from our own favorite poetry works and sought further inspiration from the park’s natural features and scenic beauty when creating the collections. Last year’s Poetry Walk was so successful and beloved by park visitors, that we are extremely pleased to present the Poetry Walk with favorites from last year as well as new poems this year for our visitor’s enjoyment.

This year, as the Poetry Walk meanders through the forest, it weaves in and out of several different natural communities, over a babbling brook, slowly climbs an ancient limestone ridge that presents a breathtaking vista of Mt. Mansfield before it culminates with a sweeping westward view of Lake Champlain, the Champlain Islands, and the Adirondacks in the distance. The total distance of the walk including the return to the parking lot is a little over three miles and about 260’ in elevation gain on a moderately difficult trail.

Along the way, sixteen nature-themed poems that contemplate life’s passages, many of which were suggested by participants last year, are placed on the trail. Each poem, specifically chosen for both its location and sequence in the overall collection, enhance the natural surroundings with their words, while the poems add a whole new dimension of appreciation of the park’s natural environment.  

Poetry lovers will recognize classic works by Walt Whitman, e.e. cummings, Mary Oliver, Robert Frost, Gerald Manley Hopkins, and many more. Also included in the different collections throughout the season are such diverse works as those by a tenth-century unknown monk; local poets such as Paige Hauke, a former Rice Memorial High School student; Julie Cadwallader Staub, a Burlington poet whose works have been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writers Almanac; and Cheryl Savageau, an Abenaki writer and poet, and many others.

Brochures that detail the route and the works featured are available in the park office, or in Nature’s Library, the park’s lending library at the trailhead. At the end of the Poetry Walk, a journal box with a journal and colored pencils has been placed for visitors to record their thoughts and reflections, a drawing or sketch, and even a little poetry if they so desire. As evidenced by the very personal and moving entries in last year’s journal, the Poetry Walk resonated profoundly and deeply with many visitors who were undertaking their own life’s passages.
We welcome participants to suggest nature-themed works that they find meaningful as the collection of poetry featured will change on the first of every month through October. The Poetry Walk is appropriate for all ages. We hope to see many of you in the park this summer!

After all, in the words of Vincent Van Gogh, “…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”

Comments

  1. Very cool idea. I cannot wait to take a walkabout and be inspired by the writings. Next Vermont trip this is planned. Signed, a Texan

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