During 2017 and again in 2019, I had the privilege of offering poetry workshops inspired by the ecology and history of the Limberlost. These workshops were sponsored by Arts in the Parks and Historic Sites, a program of the Indiana Arts commission. Much of workshops' success was do to the promotion efforts of Friends of the Limberlost and to the expertise of Curt Burnette, Bill Hubbard, and Jeanne Akins, staff members who served as guides as participants visited the Cabin or walked a trail. Each workshop included the discussion of prompts and models and individual and collaborative writing activities. By scrolling backward, you can read some of the poems from these workshops.
In preparing for workshops, I spent time reading Gene Stratton-Porter's nonfiction books. I was amazed by what she observed in nature through her patience and attentiveness. A story that's particularly special to me is her account of seeing what may have been the last known passenger pigeon. Until reading about his experience, I had assumed (like most people) that the last living passenger pigeon was "Martha," a caged bird on exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo. What follows is a persona poem inspired by an account in Tales You Won't Believe.
Gene Stratton-Porter Identifies the Last Known Passenger Pigeon
"Martha, the Passenger Pigeon, passed away on September 1, 1914, in the Cincinnati Zoo. She was believed to be the last living individual of her species after two male companions had died in the same zoo in 1910. Martha was a celebrity at the zoo, attracting long lines of visitors."
----Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
I saw him three miles west of the Limberlost
with my camera set to film the brooding hen goldfinch.
A whistling of wings and then that singular bird
settled on the telephone wire above me, I recognized
his bright red beak and feet, hue of blue-gray feathers,
distinctive See? See? As a farm girl, I heard that call
when flocks thick as storm clouds eclipsed the sun.
Fervent wings rumbled in ceaseless thunder. Roosting
birds broke limbs and toppled trees. See? See?
they whimpered in our neighbor's yard---dozens
clubbed and captured, with broken legs, backs,
and wings, soon to be dropped into the pot-pie kettle.
See? See? See? this one cried, cocking his head
and looking in every direction. But by then, Martha
had been shipped to the Smithsonian inside a block
of ice. Among Objects of Wonder she was paired
with an Ectopistes migratorius shot years before she
hatched. If I could have shifted my camera, then
you could see for yourself how the last passenger pigeon
was nameless and perched by himself on a wire.
How iridescent shone the bronze patches on his throat
with nothing but the sun behind him.
By Shari Wagner
Indiana Poet Laureate 2016-2017