Poems by two Methow Valley students are included in an online interactive poetry project that features poems about different areas of Washington state.
Liberty Bell High School students Keeley Brooks and Travis Grialou wrote poems about the Methow Valley that are included on the map. The project, called “Washington Poetic Routes,” was created by Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna.
The project provides a map of Washington state that displays poems that are opened by clicking on dots that represent different locations. The map can be viewed at washingtonpoeticroutes.com.
Castro Luna visited Liberty Bell High School and other Okanogan County schools last October through a residency arranged by Methow Arts and funded by Humanities Washington. She led students in writing exercises focused on creating poetry that explores “the relationship we each have to the place we live.”
Liberty Bell English teacher Kelly Grayum followed up on Castro Luna’s visit by sending her a set of poems written by students for possible inclusion on the Washington Poetic Routes map. “I read through the poems and chose the two for very different reasons,” she said.
Brooks’ poem, called “Mountain,” is about Liberty Bell Mountain, one of the Methow Valley’s iconic landmarks. Grialou’s poem, “The Ride,” is set in Twisp and is about riding a bike. One of the writing exercises Castro Luna gave students was to describe how they get to and from school, a subject that Grialou addressed in his poem. Brooks’ poem “took a very holistic view of what does it mean to live in the valley, in this rural place, surrounded by mountains,” Castro Luna said.
“As a writer and poet, I am constantly interested in the relationship people have to place,” she said. “A poem is an emotional connection to that place and a physical connection to that place. When we write about the place we live in, we tap into memory, into history, into our desires and our frustrations. This is fertile territory for poetry.”
The dots representing different poems and different places in Washington are placed along lines representing highways and roads. Clicking on those lines provides information about the various routes that traverse the state.
“Roads are the way we connect to people in the state, the way we get to each other over passes. We designed the map with the idea that poetry is another way that connects us,” Castro Luna said. The poems are paired with images from the state’s art collection.
The project was launched earlier this month as a celebration of National Poetry Month. As of this week there were 26 poems on the site, including submissions from a student and a teacher in the Brewster School District, and two students in the Okanogan School District. Castro Luna said she will continue to select and add more poems. Anyone — long-time poets or first-time writers — can submit a poem for consideration via the website.
“I will include poems from students and adults. My hope is that every town in Washington would have a poem,” Castro Luna said. “I am a stalwart supporter of children’s writing,” she added. “Hopefully the writing will inspire other students.”
Ancient Mountains stand proud
acquaintances of the clouds,
who flit among their jagged peaks,
delicate in their mystery.
time or day have no meaning to these wisened warriors,
their faces sculpted with nature’s hand,
content in their never ending pursuit of simple existence.
Nestled among these venerable statues,
tucked close enough to hear the heartbeat
lies my town,
a glint of civilization among the wild of the north cascades.
the children of the methow valley
are the children of the Mountains.
we have learned the language of raven’s caw
watched ponderosa’s resilience against winter’s bitter chill,
we have smiled at the clouds from among the jagged peaks
attempted to become friends with the wind,
we have seen the leaves’ struggle to remain a-fixed to mother tree
perennials’ beauty as they emerge once again,
We are witness to nature’s cycles as they deserve to be
and for that she is forever a part of us.
I haul the bike from the shed
Kick my feet into the pedals
Rub my arms
Rescue heat from the air
The crunch of gravel beneath tires
A hill looms before me
Covered in ruts, the dry veins of dirt
Dust billows behind me
Hanging in the air
The ghost of my passing
Among the pines
Glistening with frost
The fall air is crisp
A carpet of red-gray leaves crackle
Beneath my knobby tires
As I pass a ring of stones
Charcoal litters the ground
Grassy ghosts of flames
Beneath a dead gray sky