Voices in the Forest: Site-Specific Poetry in Shoreline Brings Poems in Six Languages to Your Smartphone

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Poetry in the natural landscape
Photo courtesy City of Shoreline

Just as poets from the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) would write poems about famous landmarks that had previously been visited by poets in the past, Shoreline’s newly completed site-specific poetry project Voices in the Forest offers layers of interpretation orbiting the same location.

The project’s goals include bringing artists, especially artists of color, into the regional and global conversation as primary interpreters of landscape.

After several years of development and planning, the exhibition is open for both in-person (socially distanced) visits as well as armchair listening from home.

The City coordinated with its translation services (Language Link) to create versions in Somali, Tagalog, and Korean; participating poets also provided Spanish and Vietnamese. In the field, a QR code brings up the poems that can be listened to on a smartphone. 

Paramount Open Space
Photo courtesy City of Shoreline

The site can also be explored from home. With 12 poets and 40 poems, there’s enough material to enjoy for hours. The poems reference specific locations while exploring nature and the challenges of the current moment.

Poets (50% artists of color) include nominees for the State’s Book Award, Stranger Genius Grant, and recipients of the Seattle Mayors Arts Award: Kristin Alexander, Kilam Tel Aviv, Anne Beffel, Janée J. Baugher, Eileen Walsh Duncan, Mercedes Lawry, Saab Lofton, James B. Moore, Hop Nguyen, Jorge Enrique Gonzalez Pacheco, Shin Yu Pai, and Raul Sanchez.

The site features the poems as well as maps to guide visitors to parks like Hamlin, North City, and Paramount Open Space. The poems rotate every 4-6 weeks, and the overall run is expected to last through 2021.

The project was made possible through a grant from the Washington State Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.


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