The tour kicked off with an NPR Wyoming interview and an incredible visit to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons. Next, they visited the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, then Joshua Tree and Channel Islands National Parks in California. In February, they traveled to Dry Tortugas in Florida, followed by spring trips to Guadalupe Mountains in Texas and Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. In the summer of 2017, they visited the Badlands National Park and Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, then Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado and 3 National Parks in Alaska (Denali, Wrangell and Glacier Bay). In October, they traveled to Acadia National Park in Maine plus Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, followed by the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in November.
Along the way, Morton and Birkelbach are speaking at libraries, universities, National Parks, arts venues and bookstores, doing poetry readings + Q&A sessions about the creative process, poetry and their tour.
The initial spark to do something like this hit Karla when she was at a national conference and learned that 2016 would be 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. A year later, while she was working on Accidental Origami in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the idea took formation. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and John Muir, Morton and Birkelbach hope to contribute to the exploration, preservation and protection of our country’s most natural, beautiful spaces.
Morton writes: “In this digital age, there is no replacement for the grandeur of Mother Nature. Wonder cannot be imported or exported, but it can be captured with words, and we can think of no better treasure to explore, champion and share through our work than our National Parks.”
So far, media coverage of the tour has included a radio interview with NPR Wyoming, a feature story in Western Writers of America's Roundup Magazine, a front page story in the Carlsbad Current-Argus (part of the USA Today network), the front page of Lone Star Literary Life and the Alamosa Valley-Courier. Pendleton Woolen Mills also did a feature Q&A storyon their blog.
To book the TX Poets Laureate for a media interview or a poetry reading during their tour, click here.
Texas Poet Laureate, speaker, author and photographer.
A special thank you to our Tour sponsor Pendleton, the maker of the beautiful Badlands National Park blanket on the right. They make a blanket for many of the National Parks!
"What do you think of when you hear the words 'poet laureate?' Esoteric, brilliant, and maybe even 'inaccessible and unapproachable?' Well,
Durango Public Library learned otherwise when Karla Morton and Alan Birkelbach visited us as part of their National Parks Tour. They were funny, down-to-earth, and just plain entertaining! Each read from their poetry and talked about the creative process and their roles as Texas Poets Laureate. Then – they donated signed copies of a couple of their books to us – a librarian’s dream come true! We hope they will swing back
through Durango in the future, and we wish them well on their innovative and interesting National Parks Tour."
~ Megan Kinney, Durango Public Library
As part of the project, Morton and Birkelbach will visit 50 or more of the 59 U.S. National Parks, documenting their journey through poetry and photography, ultimately creating one or more books. Their plan is to donate a percentage of sales to the National Park Service.
Thank you to Patrick and Andrea Marshall, Words of Preservation patrons. We are honored by and appreciate your support of our project!
If you are interesting in supporting Karla and Alan’s Words of Preservation project, please contact Karla.
January 12 -21: Biscayne National Park & Everglades National Park in Florida
February 15 – 21: Big Bend National Park in Texas
March 9 – 18: Saguaro National Park in Arizona
April 2 – 11: Great Basin National Park in Nevada
May 8 - 15: Congaree National Park in South Carolina
TBD: Redwood National and State Parks and Lassen Volcanic National Park in California + Crater Lake National Park in Oregon
June 20 – 27: Glacier National Park in Montana
July 19-29: Yosemite National Park in California
Aug 10-20: Haleakalā National Park and Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii + National Park of American Samoa in Samoa
Sept 8-16: Virgin Islands National Park in St. John, Us Virgin Islands
Nov 6-14: Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky