Natomas Arts: Poet Laureate Park Takes Shape

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Crew installs Poet Laureate Park fixtures. / Photo: T. Drotar

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Crew installs Poet Laureate Park fixtures. / Photo: T. Drotar

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Crew installs Poet Laureate Park fixtures. / Photo: T. Drotar

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Blueprints for Poet Laureate Park fixtures. / Photo: T. Drotar

BY TRINA DROTAR
THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Nestled between the South Natomas Library and the South Natomas Community Center is Poet Laureate Park, a public art sculpture garden honoring Sacramento’s poets laureate.

The project features six poem sculptures by each of the Sacramento poets laureate since the program’s inception in 2000. Designed and installed by Truckee artist Troy Corliss, the project was proposed by Julia Connor during her own tenure as poet laureate from 2005 – 2009.

“I wanted a permanent destination spot that would celebrate the poets laureate of Sacramento,” Connor said.

One purpose of the Sacramento Poet Laureate is to bring poetry into the community. Connor’s other projects at the South Natomas Library include her Think Postcard! mail art project and display, poetry readings and classes. The library has a long history of poetry readings and other literary events.

Connor was offered the site when a different public art piece slated for the South Natomas Community Center Park fell through.

“I was delighted with this location because, first of all, the library is here. There’s a chance to integrate things here, have readings, have the sculpture installation, have something inside, so that it really has some meaning.”

Connor said that she would also like a display inside the library that might include photos and sketchbook pages from the poets laureate.

The installation started March 11 when Corliss and a small crew installed the steel sculptures using forklifts and other equipment. A weathering steel, known as Corten, does not require painting and forms a permanent rust-like appearance was used for each sculpture. Several people wandered by during the installation, which took several hours and well after dark to complete.

Corliss returned a few days later, on Saturday March 14, to remove the temporary braces he’d used on the earlier trip. Many of the passersby who wandered through the sculpture garden stopped to ask questions, read the poems and comment.

Five of the six sculptures are clustered close to the buildings and include poems from Viola Weinberg and Dennis Schmitz (2000 – 2002), Julia Connor (2005 – 2009), Bob Stanley (2009 – 2012) and Jeff Knorr, Sacramento’s current poet laureate. The sixth sculpture is located across the walk closer to the soccer field and represents the late Jose Montoya who served from 2002 – 2004.

Corliss worked with each poet for their input. His goal: to have the poetry become a three dimensional experience and a true collaboration between the poet and the artist.

When asked how he translated written poems into sculptures, Corliss referred to Montoya’s poem, “This Valley in September,” calling the work lyrical.

“The cadence, tempo and delivery of the spoken word is an intrinsic part of his craft. Much like the style of the Beat poets of his generation, the work is meant to be heard,” said Corliss. “My intent for Jose’s piece is that in presentation it appears to be floating in space (i.e. like the sound of spoken words). That visually the text would seem like notes floating on an invisible page.”

Corliss approached Connor’s poem, “(m)other tongue,” the way it was laid out on the page.

“She really just starts at the top left corner and flows all the way down through the page, and there’s a lot of space in between each of the stanzas, so I got the idea of unfolding the page into several pages,” said Corliss. “It gives you the experience of stepping through the stanzas.”

Shelly Willis, Executive Director of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, called the project a tribute to our poets.

“The result is a piece that really does celebrate the work of these poets,” said Willis. “The piece, to me, has a lot of movement and with the way that the shadows are cast and how each piece stands on its own, really reflects, I think, the spirit of that poet. So they are connected, but they are each very distinct.”

Landscaping and signage will complete Poet Laureate Park at which time an official grand opening will take place.

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Poet Laureate Park in south Natomas. / Photo: T. Drotar

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Poet Laureate Park is nestled behind the South Natomas Library. / Photo: T. Drotar

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Finishing touches on Poet Laureate Park in south Natomas. / Photo: T. Drotar

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Julia Connor and Troy Corliss examine Poet Laureate Park fixtures. / Photo: T. Drotar