English lecturer Jennifer Knox has been awarded a prestigious 2017 Iowa Arts Council Fellowship. Her project, Iowa Bird of Mouth, will create 12 crowdsourced poems celebrating native Iowa birds. IBOM will begin September 1, 2016.
Birds have always been a central theme in Jennifer’s poetry. Her interest in voice and inclusion led her to the technique of crowdsourcing poems, which offers a unique opportunity to expand definitions of community and engagement. In a crowdsourced poem, anyone can contribute to their words. U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera hosted an epic crowdsourced poem, “La Familia,” on the Library of Congress’ website.
IBOM seeks the words and stories of bird lovers, bird watchers, conservationists, poets, writers, artists, musicians, teachers, students, environmental stewards, and nature lovers from around the world—regardless of age, education, publication history, or writing style. IBOM contributors can submit 300 words per day written in any style—from a rhyming, metered verse to free-flowing prose. Every month, the spotlight bird will change to inspire and reflect that species’ visibility and migration patterns. The project will begin in September with the Goldfinch. Other spotlight birds will be announced this summer. The final poems will be presented as unbroken text. Contributors’ names will be listed alphabetically in a master contributors list, but not within the poems themselves. The text is open source and may be used for future art projects, music, lesson plans, etc.
“By sharing our memories and impressions of birds, we celebrate the ways in which our experiences as Iowans divide and converge, like an undulating flock,” Knox said. She also hopes that honoring wild birds will inspire increased conservation efforts and attention to the plight of the environment.
Tyler Harms of Iowa State University and Executive Director of Iowa Youth Birders will act as IBOM’s ornithological advisor. Ames artist Kathranne Knight will design the Iowa Bird of Mouth logo. Poet Shanna Compton will design and develop the IBOM website.
The Iowa Arts Council chose five fellows, including Brett Holland, an Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Visual Culture at Iowa State University. The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions —the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa (State Office of Media Production) and the State Historical Society of Iowa—empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.
Jennifer is the author of four books of poems, most recently Days of Shame & Failure, which the The New York Times Book Review said "hits, with deceptive ease, all the poetic marks a reader could want: intellectual curiosity, emotional impact, beautiful language, surprising revelation and arresting imagery." Her work has appeared four times in the Best American Poetry series as well as The New York Times, The New Yorker, and American Poetry Review.