“A Poetic Inventory of Saguaro National Park”

An event was recently brought to our attention that captures many of the qualities found in an Ecological Reflection program and is one which we believe could be replicated elsewhere. The event was titled “A Poetic Inventory of Saguaro National Park” and was held in conjunction with the BioBlitz held in Saguaro National Park October 21-22, 2011.

A BioBlitz is a 24-hour event in which teams of volunteer scientists, families, students, teachers, and other community members work together to find and identify as many species of plants, animals, microbes, fungi, and other organisms as possible. In this case, more than 5,000 people combed Saguaro National Park outside of Tucson, Arizona. The 24-hour count added over 400 species to park lists, including 190 species of invertebrates and 205 species of fungus previously unknown to the park. At least one species of bryophyte discovered was new to the park and could be potentially new to science.

Leading up to the BioBlitz, Tucson poet and naturalist Eric Magrane created “A Poetic Inventory of Saguaro National Park,” in which he gathered close to one hundred poets and prose writers to contribute creative pieces based on species in the park, including the Bark Scorpion, Jumping Cholla, Flicker, Saguaro, Mountain Lion, Gila Monster, Sacred Datura, Tarantula, Western Diamond-Backed Rattlesnake, and Harris Hawk.

Poems and prose works were featured in the latest issue of Spiral Orb, a literary journal that Magrane has dubbed “an experiment in permaculture poetics.” In it, Magrane explained the “Poetic Inventory” process:

“The project’s contributors used various modes to address their species. Some wrote poems taking the voice of their species; some wrote celebrations of their species; some wrote to their species, addressing them in the form of an ode or asking questions; some wrote playful lyrics; some followed the human name of the species into a poem, letting language be a species itself; some created new fairy tales.”

To read more about the poetic inventory, click here.

To read the poems themselves, please click here.

In addition to the Spiral Orb issue, a well-attended “reading” was held at the University of Arizona’s Poetry Center. For video, click here.

One idea that we had is that Magrane (or another dedicated soul) could treat the 2011 Poetic Inventory results as base-line data and, in future years, re-sample Saguaro’s plant and animal communities. This would bring the concept of The Poetic Inventory into the fold of Ecological Reflections’ “long-term” emphasis and further Magrane’s own question on biodiversity: “how do we, as Homo sapiens—one species among many—relate with other species?”

Regardless, and perhaps needless to say, we think the “Poetic Inventory” is a brilliant idea that other sites, programs, or individuals could undertake or organize, especially as National Geographic is helping conduct a BioBlitz in a different national park each year during the decade leading up to the U.S. National Park Service Centennial in 2016.

2012 is Rocky Mountain National Park. Any takers?