History, nature, and poetry beautifully collide this Saturday, April 2, for “Poetry in the Park” at Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley. Presented by California State Parks, Sierra Gold Parks Foundation, and Nevada County Arts Council, this is the first local event to kick off National Poetry Month and California’s Arts, Culture and Creativity Month, and features students and local poets reading poems that were inspired by the Empire Mine.  

Empire Mine State Historic Park
Photo Kial James

Empire Mine State Historic Park is the site of one of the oldest, deepest, and richest gold mines in California. In operation for more than 100 years, the mine extracted 5.8 million ounces of gold before it closed in 1956. The park contains many of the mine’s buildings, the owner’s home and restored gardens, as well as the entrance to 367 miles of abandoned and flooded mine shafts. The park encompasses 856 acres of forested backcountry and fourteen miles of trails.

Over the last few weeks, Nevada County Poet Laureate Kirsten Casey has been working with 90 Nevada County students ranging from 3rd graders to high schoolers. In just three short classes, students learned the basics of writing poetry, about local history, and the revision process – all with the goal to either read or have their poems read out loud publicly.  

“They definitely learned a lot in a short amount of time,” said Casey. “They were interested in the history of our area, and I think that engaged them. They tried really hard in their revisions to write using specifics and detail.” 

Many of the students wrote poems in the form of a letter to the mine – the working mules, the miners, and the land. Some wrote poems as a series of questions, but each were asked to address all five senses using similes. 

As the Nevada County Poet Laureate, Casey is involved in writing poems to commemorate county events, reading at the Sierra Poetry Festival, and developing projects – like Poetry in the Park – with the Nevada County Arts Council to boost community involvement in poetry.

“History is vital in my poetry. In the last few years, I have been particularly inspired by historical characters and local history…I am captivated by the characters, the events, the physical places, the beauty of our landscape, and longstanding role of the arts in our area. All of these elements have shaped our community,” said Casey.

Joining the student poets are a handful of local poets Molly Fisk, Judie Rae, Judy Crowe and Ingrid Keriotis, who will lend their voices to some of the poems. “It will be very special for the students to have their poems read aloud for so many people to hear,” said Casey. “And for those of us in the audience to hear how young people see and think about local history will be immensely powerful.”

WHO: California State Parks, Sierra Gold Parks Foundation and Nevada County Arts Council present

WHAT: Poetry in the Park

WHEN: Saturday, April 2nd, 2022, 1:30-3pm

WHERE: Empire Mine State Historic Park, 10791 E. Empire Street, Grass Valley INFO: $5 Admission Fee per person, www.sierragoldparksfoundation.org or www.parks.ca.gov