Poetry News

The Wall Street Journal Takes Kindly to Jon Cotner's Poem Forest

By Harriet Staff

Jon Cotner's walks for the New York Botanical Gardens have gained a fan in the form of The Wall Street Journal, whose Sameer Reddy wrote about Cotner and "Poem Forest," a walk designed by Cotner for NYBG to re-introduce visitors to one of the area's few remaining pockets of 17th-century woodland. More:

Visitors begin at the base of the gently inclined trail, entering the shade of a staggered canopy of trees and traveling along the Bronx River, and end up at a lookout over a rushing waterfall. Mr. Cotner has placed the 15 markers at points that correspond with the assigned verses, such as T'ao Ch'ien's "Turning seasons turning wildly/away," which is recited in front of a vibrant canvas of rustling fall foliage.

In designing the walk, Mr. Cotner, 35, said he sought "a way to bring poetry off the page and into the world, in the kind of place where these poets wandered, and from which these poems came. These fragments are immediately striking. They promote an instant interplay between word and world."

The response from visitors last Saturday afternoon was heartfelt. Conrad Tinney, a longtime park member who visits the garden every weekend, came across the Poetry Society's welcome desk at the entrance to the trail by happenstance. Intrigued, he walked the path, aided by a walking stick and accompanied by two friends. Afterward, sitting on a fieldstone wall, he said, "[Poetry] is something that I read... it causes emotion and it is music. It's amazing that they would do this. The changing of the seasons, the location... it's all intertwined."

Alex Karpovsky, a star of last year's indie hit "Tiny Furniture" and a friend of Mr. Cotner's, also was affected by the experience. "It's so easy to forget all of the enchantment and beauty that surrounds us," he said. "I was interested to experience poetry in a more sensual, tactile kind of way, and to take in my surroundings as I did it. To experience this at such a transformational time of the year was moving."

"Poem Forest" is the latest in a series of city walks designed by Mr. Cotner. A recent expedition explored the interior of Long Island City's MoMA PS1 museum during its annual book fair, traveling through the café, bookstore, courtyard and various galleries. Previous efforts have been commissioned by the BMW Guggenheim Lab, the literary magazine the Believer, and Elastic City, an urban walking initiative.

Read the full article here.

Originally Published: November 10th, 2011