VERDE VALLEY – Earlier this year at Petrified Forest National Park, the man they call “Monk” wrote poetry about people, mostly about the rangers and other park staff.
A self-proclaimed “park service fanatic,” David Portolano has written poetry since he heard his first Doors song. At the time, he wasn’t much taller than your average petrified tree.
“Poetry has always been my life. When I was 5, I knew all the lyrics to Light My Fire,” says Portolano, currently the Artist-in-Residence at Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well national monuments.
As long as there have been national parks – and before they were known as national parks – there have been artists compelled to record their natural beauty either with paint brush, pen, camera or other device.
Though it’s been many years since the National Park Service creates its Artist-in-Residence program. But this year is the first the program has been in the Verde Valley.
Through July 30, Portolano, a Prescott Valley resident, can be found at The Castle and The Well with guitar and notepad in hand, as he writes poetry for a spoken word performance scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, July 28 at Montezuma Castle.
Since July 16, Portolano has spent the bulk of his time at either The Castle or The Well, either writing poetry, or making notes meant to be used in his poems.
Even his emails, Portolano admits, are written in a poetic structure.
“It comes naturally. I’ve always done it. A writing exercise … I just can’t stop thinking in haiku,” he says.
Portolano says that his poetry is “simple to understand.”
“I want people to read my poetry and feel that they’re with me in the southwest, that they’re walking the trails with me,” Portolano said. “I want my poetry to inspire people to come visit, or to be creative.”
Hopi weaver at Tuzigoot Aug. 1-13
Portolano and Hopi weaver Davis Maho were selected by Krystina Isaac, lead interpretive ranger and volunteer coordinator at Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot national monuments to be the Verde Valley parks’ first artists in residence.
Laura Burkhart, park ranger at Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot national monuments, says that she is “excited that we are hosting two artist that are dedicated to public lands education through artistic expression.”
Whereas Portolano was assigned to Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well, Maho will have his loom set up inside the museum at Tuzigoot National Monument from Aug. 1-13.
From 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Thursday through Monday those two weeks, Maho will give special programs at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 4 and at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11.
Maho’s weavings will be available for purchase, cash only.
Anyone interested in serving as an Artist-in-Residence at Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well or Tuzigoot can contact Krystina Isaac at Krystina_Isaac@nps.gov.
According to Burkhart, Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot national monuments are “hoping to offer this opportunity again in the winter, but we don’t have exact dates yet. Once we do post these openings, any artists that work in any medium are welcome to apply.”
Western National Park Association, non-profit partner with NPS and the Artist-in-Residence program, also provides a stipend to the artists to cover food, gas, and other personal costs.
To learn more about the National Park Service’s Artist-in-Residence program, visit https://www.nps.gov/subjects/arts/air.htm.
Montezuma Castle is located off I-17, exit 289, at 2800 N. Montezuma Castle Highway. Tuzigoot is located in Clarkdale at 25 Tuzigoot Road.
For more information, call the Montezuma Castle Visitor Center at 928-567-3322, extension 0.
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42