Hike & Write returns with Fairfield Poet Laureate Suzanne Bruce

March 19th at Patwino Worrtla Kodoi Dihi Open Space Park
By Samuel James Adams

Last month I joined sixty other participants for Larry Broderick’s Birds of Prey hike at Lynch Canyon Open Space. Viewing conditions were perfect: golden eagles soared, white-tailed kites perched on trees, and Northern harriers and American kestrels hunted about the fields.

As Larry spoke, I wrote hard facts and numbers. Red-tailed hawks come in three morphs. Seventy percent of hawks don’t survive their first year. North America has only three “true hawk” accipiter species: Northern Goshawks, Cooper’s Hawks, and Sharp-shinned—and the last two are hard to distinguish.

But I also wrote courting raptors lock talons and spin through the air in a ritual of trust.

I wrote this because it’s true—and astonishing.

Sometimes in nature, poetry just falls from the sky.

And if you aren’t out on open land, you won’t be there to witness it.

Photo by Steve Chun

Photo by Nicole Braddock

That’s some of the motivation behind the second Hike and Write with Fairfield Poet Laureate Suzanne Bruce. Happening at 1:00 p.m. Sunday, March 19th, this free event in a 1,500-acre park requires no prior poetical experience. We called Suzanne when she was looking at the snow-dusted hills above her home near Waterman Blvd.

What are you looking forward to in your return to Patwino Worrtla Kodoi Dihi Open Space Park?

Suzanne: I'm looking forward to seeing the seasonal change! We saw it when it was brown and a little chilly in the fall. Hopefully, the wildflowers are in. I've read that they're going to be more abundant but I'm not an expert.

For people who write poems and other creative works, what might joining a guided hike through nature do to help their practice?

Each time you go and visit a place you're going to see something new and different. You're going to smell different things. You're going to see different textures. You're going to hear different sounds and experience them in a whole different way because they’re new. You can write about that experience realistically or you can write about it metaphorically. Each experience is new and exciting even if you've been there 100 times.

Open spaces give an opportunity to appreciate the land and its history. I think it's really important to keep land open for creativity, for visual arts as well as writing.

If someone enjoys hiking, birding, and plant identification but hasn’t tried their hand at poetry, what can they expect?

I think the first thing they should do if they've never written poetry before is to just journal what they're seeing and what they're experiencing. Jot down words and thoughts and then you can form that into a poem later. I think journaling is important even if you're not a poet. It gives you a chance to write down what you appreciate.

Photo by Doug Wirtz

Can you talk about your duties as Fairfield’s official Poet Laureate and how that position came about?

I've been writing poetry for many years and there just came a time when I wanted to get other people enthused about writing. Something for people finding their creative voice and for those who already have formed theirs to enhance it. I've been involved in many poetry groups in Benicia, Napa, and St. Helena, and I found that Fairfield was lacking in artistic connections.

The city wanted somebody to represent the literary arts and to be an advocate of poetry in the city. As a poet laureate, I am required to write poems for this city, proclamations that I read at City Council meetings, and poetry for downtown celebrations such as the menorah lighting, the Veterans Day parade, and the Fourth of July.

Do you have any favorite poets who write about the outdoors?

I always go back to Mary Oliver. But we’re also going to read some Percy Bysshe Shelly before we hike.
Suzanne Bruce is the author of two books of ekphrastic poetry (poetry responding to visual art) with artist Janet Manalo: “Her Visions—Her Voices” (2015) and “Voices Beyond the Canvas” (2007).

To RSVP, email fairfieldpoetlaureate@gmail.com. Visit Suzanne’s Poet Laureate webpage to learn of upcoming events.