Arts in CA Parks - logo - white turquoise

Poetry In Parks: Empire Mine State Historic Park

A group of 17 youth and adults stands smiling in shady grass with a forest backdrop. Everyone is smiling happily, dressed in a variety of casual to business clothes. On the far left is Kirsten Casey - a gleeful woman with long white hair and dark sunglasses. In the center is Lee Herrick - a Korean-American man with short dark hair and glasses in the center. He is the 10th California Poet Laureate, and the first Asian American to serve in the role. The line is anchored on the right by Scott Green in a park ranger hat, dark sunglasses, and a black suit.
Nevada County Poet Laureate, Kirsten Casey, Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning students, State Poet Laureate, Lee Herrick and Poetry In Parks special event coordinator, Scott Green on the Clubhouse lawn at the Empire Mine State Historic Park, April 27, 2024. Photo by Jeremy Lin.

Poetry brought history to life and celebrated California’s diversity at the third annual Poetry in Parks event held at Empire Mine State Historic Park. Against the backdrop of a picturesque April day, budding poets were accompanied by esteemed local wordsmiths and the State Poet Laureate Lee Herrick, as they shared their verses celebrating the Park and California with an audience of visitors, friends, and family. Nevada City Rancheria spokesperson Shelly Covert kicked off the event with a poem, “Mother Earth,” and sang a beautiful Nisenan love song to the tribal sacred mountain Estom Yanim (Marysville Buttes) in a Nisenan dialect:

Estom yanim, where all life comes from, where we go when we die. This place is of the deepest Sacred and Spiritual relevance to our Tribe. With magic and beauty beyond understanding; a depth and reality beyond comprehension. Yaman, most Sacred. Our connection to an existence beyond body. Estom yanim yamenan.”

In preparation for the poetry reading, Nevada County Poet Laureate Kirsten Casey and literary arts teacher Marika Beck brought sixteen high school students from the Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning in Nevada City CA on a guided tour of the Empire Mine. Each student performed their own poetry written as a reflection of their experience in the mine as well as “My California” poems, a project by State Poet Laureate Lee Herrick to invite all Californians to write a poem about their state and share it, and to encourage Californians to write poetry, to think about their communities, and to realize that their voice is important. Student poets who read were Baraka Anderson, Elijah Foraker, Mariposa Freeling, Lillith Griffin, Soleil Johnson, Aislinn Welch, Casper Westly-Bratton, Jaden Ross-Glenn, Nell Miller, Sephira Kidwell-Keisner, Joey Henry, Bella O’Dale, Mirabelle Wise, Allison Fuller, Joselyn Zarate and Nevada County Poetry Out Loud finalist, Dino Parks.

Against a backdrop of large conifers and forest, a young man with long brown hair stands at a podium speaking into a microphone. In front of him are people seated in folding chairs, and a woman with a harp. In the foreground are small groups of people seated on picnic blankets in the grass listening, in the sun.
High school students for the Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning shared their poems, many creatively written from the perspective of miners that once worked in the nearby mines. Photo by Isby Fleischmann.
A Korean-American man with black hair, glasses, a blue jacket and khaki pants stands in front of a lectern labeled “California State Parks” and speaks into a microphone. He is standing on grass against a backdrop of forest, in dappled shade.
State Poet Laureate, Lee Herrick reads a poem during Poetry In Parks at the Empire Mine State Historic Park on Saturday, April 27, 2024. Photo by Scott Green.

Award winning poet Molly Fisk, and local poets Ingrid Keriotis, Judie Rae, Julie Valin, and Judy Crowe, were joined by the State Poet Laureate, Lee Herrick to share with the engaged crowd. Herrick commented, as songbirds sporadically accompanied him, that of all the well-over a hundred public poetry events he has been attending since becoming State Poet Laureate, this was the most beautiful location.

To add to the beauty of the day, musician Jessica Jane and her Celtic Harp played soft melodies and musical interludes in between the poetry being shared. Sounds of Bob Marley and Michael Franti spread throughout the air to close out a spectacular afternoon.

This Poetry In Parks special event is made possible by the Arts in California Parks program and co-sponsored by California State Parks, the Sierra Gold Parks Foundation, Nevada County Arts Council, and the California Arts Council.