A Poem Lovely as a Tree

USF Botanical Gardens features a new “Poetry Garden,” which opens Saturday with a poetry reading.


A view within the Poetry Garden at the USF Botanical Gardens. Photo: Theresa Woods | Special to USF News



By Theresa Woods

Special to USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (April 13, 2011) - The garden is a winding path through pine trees and palms. A pavilion made of wood and thatched with palm leaves is available among the poems posted along the path for visitors to stop, sit, and create their own sense of place.


On Saturday morning, the USF Botanical Gardens will host a poetry reading to open its newest section: the Poetry Garden. The idea for the garden “germinated” in Jared White’s mind as a final project for USF English Professor Laura Runge’s class, “Literature of Place: Florida”. The display will feature poetry about nature on permanent markers throughout the area.


The opening reading in the Poetry Garden will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 16.


“This course emphasized the uniqueness of Florida as place through the literature about and from Florida; it demonstrated how literature enhances our Florida experience, as well as how being in place – natural, constructed, historic, changing – enhances our experience with Florida texts,” White said. “The poetry garden project will combine literature of place with the actual experience of place.”


The idea for the garden came to White in a manner as poetic as the writing itself. Toward the end of the fall semester, he attended a creative writing conference at Flagler College, where he saw something tied to a tree and decided to investigate.


“As I got closer I realized that nature poems had been attached to several bushes and trees in this small garden area. Though the area was small and the poems had been printed on corrugated plastic, this experience had a profound effect on me.”


This concept fit perfectly into Runge’s course, so White decided to bring that experience to the USF Botanical Gardens and literally combine poetry and nature, and his idea has been met with overwhelming enthusiasm.


“Nearly everyone has spoken to the need for and the value of such a project. I have had many people ask me when it will be ready to visit. People seem to be drawn toward this combination of nature and poetry.”


White is eager to see the reactions of visitors when they are “able to walk the trails and read the poems placed throughout.”


The poetry featured in the garden was written by USF students and professors, including Jay Hopler, author of Green Squall and recipient of the 2010 Rome Fellowship in Literature. His poem “In the Garden” like the rest of the poetry, reflects the beauty and experience of the garden its self:


And the sky!

Nooned with the steadfast blue enthusiasm

Of an empty nursery.


Crooked lizards grassed in yellow shade.


The grass was lizarding,

Green and on a rampage.


Shade tenacious in the crook of a bent stem.


Noon. This is noon

Skyed, blue and full of hum, full of bloom.

The grass was lizarding.


The poems featured in the garden will remain on display for approximately a year, and will be shown on a rotating basis.


We hope those who visit feel this is an important project for the university community and the Tampa community in general,” White said. “This poetry garden project promotes environmental conservation/preservation, it promotes poetry and literacy, it promotes cross-disciplinarity, and it promotes awareness of sustainability.