In her poem “Park Going to Sleep,” Helen Hoyt describes a serene scene of silence and gentle, lolling movements in a park at night: “The monuments sleep / And the trees / And the smooth slow-winding empty paths sleep.” Many poets have written about parks as Hoyt does in this poem, creating them as mythic landscapes, reflections of personal history, and epitomes of local or national pride. 

This year, in celebration of the National Park Service Centennial, the Academy of American Poets has commissioned fifty poets to write poems about a national park in each of the fifty states. Each poet will write poems reflecting on the national park site in a state they have some connection to—a place they have lived in the past or currently call home. Every Thursday this fall, we’ll feature a selection of five of these commissioned poems from different regions across the country. The first group of featured poets includes Alberto Ríos on the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, Jennifer L. Knox on Effigy Mounts National Monument in Iowa, Jericho Brown on the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park in Louisiana, Lee Ann Brown on the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in North Carolina, and Meg Day on the Steamtown National Historic Site in Pennsylvania.

This project is part of Imagine Your Parks, a grant initiative from the National Endowment for the Arts created in partnership with the National Park Service to support projects that use the arts to engage people with the sites of the National Park System.

read the parks poems

read more about the national park service centennial