Summer Guide

Walking With Words

New haiku installation at Audubon Center shares site-specific musings of nature, humans and connections between them

This, a reminder

that poetic words, read outside

Always trump screen-time.

Poetry and time spent among the birds and bees are, objectively, two things that could enrich everyone’s lives. The newly established Haiku Trail at the Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary (1800 Upper Canyon Road, (505) 983-4609), part of Arizona and New Mexico’s over-arching Audubon Southwest, meets both those needs nicely. The confluence of nature and literary arts comes in the form of intentionally placed and thoughtfully curated three-line poems spread across the grounds of the environmental center—plus the featured poets are all local.

“These are super site-specific, and they’re time, and space, and, maybe, feeling-specific,” says Miriam Sagan, founder of Santa Fe Community ­College’s creative writing program.

All of the pieces correlate with space, echoes Stella Reed, the exhibit’s co-curator and the office and outreach manager at the Audubon. How visitors interact with the poetry walk will vary, Sagan notes, which is part of her enthusiasm for the project.

“It’s either kind of like a pilgrimage, ‘Let’s try to get all of them,’ or something just out of the corner of the eye,” Sagan says. “It just inspires you as you walk by, to kind of wake up to the landscape.”

Haiku trails can be found all over the world, and this isn’t Sagan’s first effort to mix walking and poetry. She established a haiku path in the central courtyard at the community college, for example, and when she reached out to her former poetry student, Reed, to float the idea of creating a similar path at the Audubon Center, Reed’s response was simple: “Hell yeah.”

The two then went about gathering interest for a poetry class on haiku, taught by Sagan, who has more than a dozen books to her name. Later, the poets gathered at the Audubon Center to learn about the ancient Japanese form of poetry that first gained prominence in the Western arts world early in the 20th century. While many are familiar with the three lines of poetry characterized by five, seven and five syllables respectively, Sagan says there is more to the art form than most know.

“Haiku is about nature. It’s about the seasons. It’s about a momentary perception,” she tells SFR.

The results for the trail were remarkable, Reed says.

“It just worked out really lovely,” she explains, noting how the nearby acequia was a popular focus for the participating poets. “There’s some that involve human-nature interaction. There’s some that are specific to particular species of birds and insects.”

Even climate change makes an appearance, and local artist Christy Hengst pressed the letters of each poem into clay plaques that hang throughout the Haiku Trail.

“It tells you to awaken the senses, to look, to see, to listen, to smell,” Sagan adds, “it’s really very garden friendly.”

The recently opened trail meanders through the Audubon’s property, along the acequia and into the Pollinator Garden, inviting visitors to notice more of their surroundings through the inspiration shared by the 24 New Mexican poets ranging from nationally-recognized artists to local luminaries: Arthur Sze, 2019 National Book Award for Poetry winner; Darryl Lorenzo Wellington, frequent SFR contributor and Santa Fe’s poet laureate; and Levi Romero, New Mexico’s first poet laureate.

Of course, the Audubon Center has a historical place as an environmental education institution in Santa Fe, but Reed hopes to expand the Haiku Trail’s reach. She hopes it will serve as an educational tool for visiting groups, and a way to bring nature home to kids through observation and writing. Assuming it does, they’ll join the long tradition of artistry for which the center is known. Its eponym, Randall Davey, was an American painter whose home and studio still remains on the Audubon’s grounds, largely undisturbed, according to Reed.

“When a person is sitting in the space and experiences something like that, and then is motivated to write,” Reed says of the artists’ place-based insights, “to see it go from what they’re experiencing, into a visual-capsulated poem that can be then put on site for visitors to pass by and see, that just sort of really completes the circle.”

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