To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
Emily Dickinson, 1755
Poetry Pollinators is an eco-poetry public art initiative dedicated to empowering poetry, art, and education to bring back declining native bee populations and animate public spaces as ecological systems that support the flourishing of all species.
Wild pollinator bees are solitary creatures with no hive, no honey, and no queen, which has prompted communities nationwide to help save the bees through the placement of nesting boxes that have come to be known as "bee hotels."
Poetry Pollinators on the Santa Fe River is our first project, with plans to establish up to four artist-made bee hotels along the Santa Fe River park pathway as open space gathering spots for personal contemplation, poetry readings, educational workshops, and public events & celebrations. Each bee house will integrate an educational panel and present one poem that will be changed out seasonally, at the solstices & equinoxes.
Our first installation is slated for the Rain Garden on West Alameda, along the river path by the Bicentennial Park. Led by poet-organizer Julie Chase-Daniel and Elizabeth Jacobson, current Santa Fe Poet Laureate, this project has the enthusiastic support of the Santa Fe Watershed Association, the City of Santa Fe River Commission and Parks and Recreation Department, and representatives from the Santa Fe County Commission and the Santa Fe Arts Commission.
The permanently installed bee houses will be commissioned from local artists in a juried selection process, while ongoing curation of the poetry will be managed by Jacobson and Chase-Daniel. Funding and necessary technical support is currently being sought from public and private sources.
The goal is to create a dynamic public art project that engages the talent of local artists & poets for the mutual benefit of our native eco-system and the Santa Fe River and Watershed as a living artery that unites diverse Santa Fe communities, from the east side at Upper Canyon Road to south side neighborhoods as far as Agua Fria Village and beyond.
Bee Houses as Public Art
Wild native pollinator bees do not make hives or produce honey. The photos in this proposal show public art bee houses installed around the country in a wide variety of sizes & shapes from the small backyard style to those that function as community focal points.
Construction of native pollinator bee houses has increased across the country in an effort to save bee populations, increase bio-diversity, and support native plants that are increasingly at risk due to multiple ecological and anthropogenic challenges. There are over a thousand wild, native bee species in New Mexico, comprising nearly 25% of wild bee populations in the United States. As a key region for supporting US wild bee populations, New Mexico has an important role to play in this growing national movement.
Ground and cavity nesters, native bees are highly efficient pollinators that are not aggressive and rarely sting since they have no hive, honey, or queen to protect. Native bees pollinate our local wild flowers, shrubs, and trees, as well as edible plants, fruits, and vegetables from backyard gardens to full scale farms.
Locally, public art bee houses can be seen in the Santa Fe Railyard Park, at the Santa Fe Audubon Center, and at the Open Space Visitors’ Center in Albuquerque. All are beautiful, low-maintenance, sculptural structures that are built to provide nesting habitat for a variety of native bee species.
Poetry as Public Art
At no other time has it been more important to consider how we occupy and participate in our outdoor public spaces. Poetry in public space brightens spirits, amplifies a sense of shared community, and draws the attention and delight of guests from near and far. Across the country, throughout the world, and for centuries, poets and artists have engaged public space as a foil and field for poetic epiphanies and ruminations. Poetry Pollinators on the Santa Fe River would offer an enduring vehicle to showcase the work of New Mexico youth and adult poets laureate, facilitate outdoor poetry events, and connect the vital work of our local artists & poets with that of our native plants, animals, and waterways to celebrate and support the diverse eco-system that connects us as one community, sustainable across all differences and divides.
El Parque del Rio and the Santa River Greenway
As a permanent public art installation, Poetry Pollinators serves as a contribution to combatting climate change, helping mend a variety of ecosystems both practically and poetically. One immediate benefit will be increasing awareness of the Santa Fe River Watershed and cultivating enjoyment of El Parque del Rio and the Santa Fe River Greenway, an ambitious City-County initiative which aims to tie together a linear park and multi-use trail system that will run along the river for fifteen miles when complete, from Patrick Smith Park to the waste water management facility.
Inspired by the Philosopher’s Walk in Kyoto, Japan (Tetsugaku no michi), we envision multiple locations that draw people into a dynamic interaction with the river and watershed, inviting viewers to walk or ride bikes to encounter each unique installation commissioned from participating artists.
Since being named “Most Endangered River in America” in 2007, efforts to regenerate the flow and ecosystem of the Santa Fe River were undertaken with great success and remain ongoing through the tireless work of organizations such at the Santa Fe Watershed Association and The City of Santa Fe River Commission.
The main barrier to overcome in advocating for the rights of nature, and the role of nature in cultural/civic life, is the prevailing
worldview that is often still stuck in an extractive, dominator paradigm, which fails to recognize non-human communities as
participants, beneficiaries, and contributors to cultural life.
There remains a critical need in Santa Fe and beyond to cultivate a sense of community that is tied to ecological flourishing. Poetry Pollinators responds by cultivating an ecopoetics of public space that invites, celebrates, and promotes a sense of community that integrates the animate life of the river corridor to awaken human awareness and inspire an ethic of care for the mutual wellbeing of all creatures.
We are currently seeking grants and financial contributions toward a budget of $15,000.
In the Family Way, a federally recognized 501(c)(3) public charity, serves as fiscal sponsorship for Poetry Pollinators, and all donations are tax-exempt to the extent of the law. Please feel free to contact us with any questions about how you might join our work. Thank you.
Julie Chase-Daniel, a native of New Mexico, is the founder of In the Family Way, a non-profit dedicated to helping all families thrive through creativity and the arts, and co-author of Mothering Change, an I Ching manual rooted in the feminine. She is the recipient of a National Parks Residency in the Dry Tortugas, where she and her husband, Matthew, collaborated on The Blue Fold (Axle Contemporary Press, 2017), a series of writings and photographs. Currently, Julie is working on a suite of writings to accompany a mixed-media project, Direct Exposure: Shadows of the US Border Wall, a series of large format cyanotype prints made at 100 mile intervals and other vital points along the US-Mexico border from San Diego, CA, to Brownsville, TX. She holds an MA in transformative leadership from California Institute of Integral Studies.
Elizabeth Jacobson is the Poet Laureate of Santa Fe, New Mexico and an Academy of American Poets 2020 Poet Laureate Fellow. Her most recent book, Not into the Blossoms and Not into the Air, won the New Measure Poetry Prize, selected by Marianne Boruch (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press, 2019), and the 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for both New Mexico Poetry and Best New Mexico Book. Her other books include Her Knees Pulled In (Tres Chicas Books, 2012) and two chapbooks from Dancing Girl Press, Are the Children Make Believe? (2017) and A Brown Stone(2015). She is the founding director of the WingSpan Poetry Project, a not-for-profit which from 2013-2020 conducted weekly poetry classes in battered family and homeless shelters in New Mexico. WingSpan has received four grants from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry. Elizabeth is the Reviews Editor for the on-line literary journal Terrain.org and she teaches poetry workshops regularly in the Santa Fe community. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University.
Bee House by Peter Joseph, Railyard Park, Santa Fe, NM
Bee House by Peter Joseph, Railyard Park, Santa Fe, NM
Fiscal sponsorship for Poetry Pollinators is provided by In the Family Way, a New Mexico non-profit 501(c)(3) public charity.