Poetry in Zoos

The Little Rock Zoo, in partnership with the Central Arkansas Library System, is proud to announce that it has been selected to participate in a conservation program called the “Language of Conservation.” The “Language of Conservation” is an initiative to deepen public awareness of environmental issues through poetry.

The partnership between poetry and science began as a successful program developed by Poets House and the Wildlife Conservation Society that incorporated poetry into wildlife exhibits at the Central Park Zoo in New York City. Through the Central Park Zoo project, Wildlife Conservation Society researchers discovered that the use of conservation-oriented poetry installations made zoo visitors more aware of the impact humans have on ecosystems.

The program is sponsored by Poets House and is made possible by a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. With the support of this $1 million National Leadership Grant, Poets House will partner with five zoos and four public libraries to create poetry installations and programs in New Orleans, Milwaukee, Little Rock, Jacksonville and Chicago. In addition, celebrated poets will act as Poets-in-Residence in the zoos, collaborating with wildlife biologists and exhibit designers to curate zoo installations with poems that celebrate the natural world and the connection between species.

Joseph Bruchac, Ph.D. will serve as the Little Rock Zoo’s Poet-in-Residence. Joseph Bruchac lives in the Adirondack foothills town of Greenfield Center, New York, in the same house where his maternal grandparents raised him. Much of his writing draws on that land and his Abenaki ancestry. His lifelong interest in the natural world has been a frequent focus in his writing, especially the best-selling Keepers of the Earth series he co-authored. He has edited a number of highly praised anthologies of contemporary poetry, including Songs from this Earth on Turtle’s Back and Breaking Silence (winner of an American Book Award) and authored more than 120 books for adults and children. His honors include a Rockefeller Humanities fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship for Poetry, the Hope S. Dean Award for Notable Achievement in Children’s Literature and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas.

Little Rock Zoo guests can expect to see the installation of “Language of Conservation” graphics in the spring of 2010. These graphics will include poetry that reflects on the beauty of the natural world and its risk of destruction.