nolde forest state park in cumru township, berks county, with the coordinating efforts of environmental education specialist rachel baur, kindly hosted my first river poems workshop in late may. three public school teachers, including two from a school district more than 200 miles away, south of johnstown, one from amity township, berks county, and a berks community strollers hiking club friend were the participants.
and fortunately, the two hours of the workshop also counted as act 48 credits for the public school teachers who signed up and enjoyed the sound of punches run at the park while we talked about river language.
we used the book flow: the life and times of philadelphia's schuylkill river by beth kephart as a main inspiration for the workshop but also went over some of my own river haiku, and everyone also went home with copies of river-ish poems by stanley plumly and former u.s. poet laureate charles wright.
photography credits: jennifer hetrick & rachel baur
seeing critters from punch's run kept curiosities moving forward during the workshop, and a man hiking along a nearby trail even stopped to check out what we were up to. he wanted to glimpse the creek-dwelling types as well. you can't blame him for that !
one workshop participant noticed a broken branch on the ground and went to step on it. she soon realized an optical illusion had her mind's attention with the visual because it collapsed flat under the pressure of her sneaker. the wood was gone, and only the bark remained. this trickery with perception and expectation lead us chat about haptics, the study of touch and its impacts on the brain with choices, beliefs, and understanding. we talked about what words could describe this whole situation with the hollow slice of bark. she finally came up with ''weight of shadow'' as her crafted language.
here are some of the river haiku i wrote for the workshop to help kick-start ideas for poems, followed by two workshop-goers' poems. we may have a few other poems to share in the future from other participants.
and see the neologism of "bobber-fling" below, courtesy of the mind of sam traten from his poem titled "wally's pond" from my class called the pull of poems.
writing from water
the river moves, floods my bones—
stanzas sing marrow
water, flowing soul,
your sounds are songs that quake, spill,
weaving through feathers
rain and river know
what we don't say in our days—
carry oldest pain
poets sleep in moon
rivers, underwater, know
what trees say at night
i tote, lug myself
through the soot curfew, waiting
for sun to peel fresh
the road of river
pulses its currents toward
patches of city
my water looms low
as blue heron mothers spy
lungless summer fish
walk, slosh at my banks,
pick up signs of bobber-fling,
feel my unseen spine
Observations in just one hour creek side…
By Sue HInkel
Water as the medium of life,
Balance in its best form,
Nature hidden in plain sight,
Transforming in cycles,
Discovering evidence of magic in the world,
Fragile living earth,
The measurement of green health,
Pay attention people!
this title-free poem below is by a woman in the aforementioned berks community strollers. she loves to hike is an avid appreciator of local trails. she said she's also working on some luna moth poems, inspired by noticing a few outside of the classroom where we initially met during the workshop, so maybe she'll share some of those once she has them freshly written.
Hide abundant life.
Shadows come and go
with a ripple here and there
to indicate that there is more to
be seen than meets the eye.