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Poet Laureate Ada Limón hopes to help people commune with nature in new project

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

United States poet laureate AdaLimón recently announced "You Are Here," the signature project for her term. Derek Operle with member station WKMS reports the Kentucky poet wants people to engage with poetry and the natural world.

DEREK OPERLE, BYLINE: For Limón, experiencing nature helps wash away the human clutter of life, and poetry accentuates its wonder, awe and mystery.

ADA LIMON: When we talk about nature, we're very interested in, OK, let me think about the scientific name, the Latin name. But at the same time, I do think we have to make space for the things we don't know, the feelings that we can't describe. And poetry makes room for that.

OPERLE: The California-born Limón now lives in Kentucky, and she often finds inspiration for her writing in the world around her. Now her signature project as a United States poet laureate seeks to help people commune with nature, something that she says can help them feel connected to the natural world.

LIMON: I think sometimes when you recognize where you are, that you are on a planet, that you are in an ecosystem, you recognize that there is no way that you're alone, that you are part of something more vibrant.

OPERLE: She's planning a series of installations in seven national parks across the country, from the snowy volcanic peaks of Mount Rainier National Park in Washington to the subtropical wilderness of Everglades National Park in Florida. The installations are an initiative with the National Park Service and the Poetry Society of America. They will feature picnic tables emblazoned with historic American poems curated by Limón. She says this site-specific public art will urge visitors to truly experience their surroundings.

LIMON: Sometimes, even if we have the intention of going to these incredible spaces to take our mind off things or to, you know, have some communion with nature, we still forget to do it. Sometimes you need to sit in stillness. Sometimes you need to have a poem or some way in that can allow for that silence, a little breath.

OPERLE: These poetry installations will feature an element of interactivity, encouraging parkgoers to pen their own verses. An anthology of original works also curated by Limón, called "You Are Here: Poetry In The Natural World," is scheduled for release in April of next year. For NPR News, I'm Derek Operle in Paducah, Ky.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEHANI SONG, "COMFORTABLE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Derek Operle