Spiral Orb Five:

A Poetic Inventory of Saguaro National Park



Leading up to the 2011 National Park Service and National Geographic Society BioBlitz at Saguaro National Park, I asked poets and writers to write pieces based on species in the park. Mirroring the inventory form of the BioBlitz, in which the public joined scientists in doing species inventories within the park, the Poetic Inventory took another view at biodiversity: how do we, as Homo sapiens—one species among many—relate with other species?


The project’s contributors used various modes to address their species. Some wrote poems taking the voice of their species; some wrote celebrations of their species; some wrote to their species, addressing them in the form of an ode or asking questions; some wrote playful lyrics; some followed the human name of the species into a poem, letting language be a species itself; some created new fairy tales.


Thirty-six of the contributors to the Poetic Inventory were filmed reading their species-pieces; the DVD, filmed by Open Lens Productions, played during the BioBlitz festival at Red Hills Visitor Center in Saguaro National Park. Many contributors also read their pieces at live readings throughout the two days of the festival. Spiral Orb Five gathers eighty pieces from this project, linking them in a non-linear experiment of poetic biomimicry.


I’m grateful to the species that are included in this Inventory. They had no choice in the matter (they have little choice regarding most things that our species does), and I hope that they take this project as a form of respect. No species exists separate from other species; unfortunately, our species is very slow at realizing this and it is getting late for biodiversity here in the Anthropocene. In other words, when addressing other species we’re really addressing ourselves, and we need addressing.


—Eric Magrane, Editor, Spiral Orb, April 2012


Read the Poetic Inventory Entry Poem


Video of the 2012 Issue Launch Reading at The University of Arizona Poetry Center




Contributors & Species:
Samuel Ace ~ Pyrrhuloxia // Charles Alexander ~ Western white-throated woodrat // Renee Angle ~ White-nosed coati // Maya Asher ~ Sonoran coral snake // Amanda Jean Bailey ~ Arizona sycamore // Christine Baines ~ Fairy duster // Mary Ellen Bartholomew ~ Zebra-tailed lizard // Gary Bear ~ Black bear // Hugh Behm-Steinberg ~ Varied bunting // Norah Booth ~ Hedgehog cactus // Nicole Broadhurst ~ Queen butterfly // Wynne Brown ~ Bobcat // Laynie Browne ~ Arizona blond tarantula // Melissa Buckheit ~ Desert globemallow // Wendy Burk ~ Desert tortoise // Scott Calhoun ~ Barestem larkspur // Jefferson Carter ~ Palo verde beetle // Christopher Cokinos ~ Gilded flicker // Lisa Cole ~ Wishbone-bush // Matthew Conley ~ Desert mistletoe // Geraldine Connolly ~ Gambel’s quail // Lisa Cooper Anderson ~ Devil’s claw // Barbara Cully ~ Agave // Alison Hawthorne Deming ~ Saguaro // Shelby Driscoll ~ Merriam’s kangaroo rat // Tj Hoffman Duffy ~ Sonoran collared lizard // Kimi Eisele ~ Cactus longhorn beetle // Sina Evans ~ Regal horned lizard // Karen Falkenstrom ~ Arizona walking stick // Valyntina Grenier ~ Verdin // Annie Guthrie ~ Elf owl // Angelo Joaquin Jr. ~ Coyote // Cybele Knowles ~ Sacred datura // Sarah Kortemeier ~ Devil’s claw (acacia) // Ken Lamberton ~ Mountain lion // Melissa Lamberton ~ Canyon tree frog // Mark Lee ~ Badger // Rachel Lehrman ~ Coulter’s lupine // Jake Levine ~ Greater short-horned lizard // Raja Lewis ~ Turkey vulture // George Life ~ Mojave rattlesnake // Rita Maria Magdaleno ~ Kestrel // Eric Magrane ~ Gila monster // Kristi Maxwell ~ Brittlebush // Ellen McMahon ~ Phainopepla // Petey Mesquitey ~ Desert millipede // Cynthia Miller ~ Desert lavender // Jane Miller ~ Roadrunner // Paul Mirocha ~ Mule deer // Gary Paul Nabhan ~ Brigham’s tea // Heather Nagami ~ Gray fox // Jeevan Narney ~ Desert ironwood // Christopher Nelson ~ White-winged dove // Kristen E. Nelson ~ Western diamond-backed rattlesnake // Frank Parker ~ Prickly pear // Ann M. Penton ~ Fishhook barrel cactus // Logan Phillips ~ Jumping cholla // Valerina Quintana ~ Sonoran spotted whiptail // David Ray ~ Teddy bear cholla // Judy Ray ~ Gila woodpecker // Michael Rerick ~ Curve-billed thrasher // Alberto Ríos ~ Black-tailed jackrabbit // Elizabeth Frankie Rollins ~ Desert mariposa lily // Steven Salmoni ~ Red-spotted toad // Rebecca Seiferle ~ Limberbush // Ann Seiferle-Valencia ~ White-throated swift // Claire Skinner ~ Yellow-rumped warbler // Monique Soria ~ Giant mesquite bug // Sandra Szelag ~ Sonoran desert pocket mouse // Richard Tavenner ~ Desert spiny lizard // Walker Thomas ~ Black-tailed rattlesnake // Shawna Thompson ~ Raven // Erec Toso ~ Jojoba // Christina Vega-Westhoff ~ Lucy’s warbler // Sharon Wahl ~ Couch’s spadefoot toad // M.E. Wakamatsu ~ Harris’s hawk // Glenn Weyant ~ Funnel-web spider // Erin Wilcox ~ Pinacate beetle // Joshua Marie Wilkinson ~ Bark scorpion // Ofelia Zepeda ~ Creosote

*Thank you to all of the contributors to the Inventory, as well as to the arts planning group for the BioBlitz (Jamie Trevillyan, Melanie Florez, Richard Hill, and Natasha Kline at Saguaro National Park; Yajaira Gray with Pima County Environmental Education; Stephanie Bowman, artist, educator, and Jaguar Quilt maker; Christopher Cokinos, writer and professor at UA; Leia Maahs, Tucson Pima Arts Council), to Sarah Minor for her prowess scheduling all the readers for the festival and for the DVD readings, to Wendy Burk for leading Poetry Walks with me at the BioBlitz and for being my favorite human collaborator, and to Cybele Knowles for suggesting the Inventory Reading at the Poetry Center. I’m sure I’m missing somebody. I hope that future BioBlitzes continue to include poetry and the arts; it’s increasingly clear that art and science need to interact at all levels.

Thanks also to everyone at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, as always.