Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Poetry Matters

The Han Shan Poetry Project:  McLellan Park Forest East

In December 2012, poets from Oregon, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Australia, the UK, Canada, and Turkey responded to a call from Langley, BC poet Susan McCaslin to submit poems celebrating trees in an effort to protect a unique forest just outside the heritage community of Fort Langley, British Columbia. I happened to have seen an email from McCaslin forwarded via a Santa Fe Poets distribution list, and responded by sending in my only "tree" poem, "Cottonwoods for Cornelia."*

That poem, along with all the others McCaslin received are now suspended (with string--no nails) from the forest trees in the hope that the voices of poets will be considered when Langley council decides the fate of the forest. The installation was inspired by Han Shan, a Chinese hermit poet from the Tang Dynasty era over 1,000 years ago, who wrote poems on trees and rocks, living respectfully with nature.

McCaslin says, "These poems express how poets respond to the creative outpouring of nature that encompasses and sustains us. It's about putting human language beside the larger language of nature and the planet. They have been offered specifially for the protection of this remarkable, biologically diverse forest."

The forest she refers to is known locally as McLellan Forest East, a publicly owned area slated to be sold off to partially fund a community center if a group of residents cannot come up with the $3M needed to buy the land. Click here to view "Together We Stand" YouTube video by area art students about the'll see the forest and the poems, as well as statements made to the council. Great poem at end.

NEW on March 1, 2013:
As of January 9, 2013, McCaslin reports: "The Han Shan Poetry Initiative has been a huge success, garnering covering in local...and national newspapers...and [television] news....
I have received over 250 poems which are now suspended from the trees.  Folks come from far and wide to stroll through the forest and read them.  Because of the need to move on to other phases of the campaign, I had to draw a halt to my call for poems, as I couldn’t keep up with the flow.

"The overwhelming response to this project from poets proves to me once and for all that poetry matters and that the arts and activism can be seamlessly conjoined. It is a beautiful thing to witness and be part of."

If you want to learn more about McCaslin, the Han Shan project, and the fate of the forest, please go to her web site:

Photos of tree installation courtesy of Erin Perry, Erin Perry @

*"Cottonwoods for Cornelia" is one of the poems in my book When East Was North. See link on blog home page.

1 comment:

  1. From an email message:
    "Wonderful blog, Andi!! It’s perfect. Thanks so much for your support. Yes, we’re holding off on letters from the States at the present time.
    Best wishes,
    Susan" [McCaslin]