We created this project in formal collaboration with Chris Carmichael and Deepa Natarajan of the UC Botanical Garden, at Berkeley, and with a generous grant from the Creative Work Fund. For us, it was a chance to take poetry off the page and work with a community—to produce a substantial public poem (the index). It changed us, providing an experience, for almost two years, of poetry as a practice alive outside ourselves and wrestling with contemporary matter. For Chris and Deepa, who didn’t know what to expect from experimental poets on such an endeavor, it was a process “full of surprises.” “I don't know if I can explain the project in a sentence,” Chris would tell visitors, “but if you go talk to them, you’ll love it.” They delighted in how, at our open studios and public walks, “visitors became poets” as we “empowered their words with importance, weight and immortality” (Deepa).
Poetry space became a locus for unpredictable, deep, of-the-moment material that would otherwise be hard to say out loud. Could a plant sale purchase be equivalent to the value of anything else—a cupcake or a book? What did people want to steal? What’s natural here or anywhere—only the cotton in CVS bandages, someone volunteered. Can we think of the history of botanical collection, animal kills at the fence, climate change inside the fence? Human desires and claims, and wishes for the world to be otherwise—we collected all of it.
We are full of gratitude for everyone who participated and hold dear our conversations together. Hundreds of people participated—thank you! A special thank you to our garden collaborators, who explained and gave so much to us: Chris and Deepa—and also Anthony Garza, Basil Medeiros, Ben Anderson, Bryan Gim, Corina Rieder, Eric Schulz, Eric Siegel, Gideon Dollarhide, Holly Forbes, Jason Bonham, Jonathan Goodrich, Ken Bates, Meghan Ray, Michelle Laskowski, Paul Licht, Rafael Ortiz, Sarah Maclean, and Sarah Wininger.
For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DENISE NEWMAN's poetry collections are Future People, The New Make Believe, Wild Goods, and Human Forest. She is the translator of Azorno and The Painted Room, both by the late Danish poet, Inger Christensen, and Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt, which won the 2015 PEN Translation Award. Newman is also involved in video, installation and social practice projects that explore language and poetics, and for many years she has collaborated with composers providing lyrics for choral works and songs. She has received an NEA Fellowship in Translation. She teaches at the California College of the Arts.
HAZEL WHITE's first poetry book, Peril as Architectural Enrichment (Kelsey Street Press), was a finalist for the Northern California Book Award. Her new manuscript, Vigilance Is No Orchard, was a finalist for the 2015 Ottoline prize and the National Poetry Series; poems from it have appeared in New American Writing, Denver Quarterly, and Eleven Eleven and are forthcoming in Fence. An ongoing site project on social media, Battery 129, Marin Headlands, began during a three-year affiliate residency at Headlands Center for the Arts. White was one of the winners of Tony Labat's I Want You . . . monolog contest at SFMOMA and has presented at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco.