Meet our Guests: Ann Walka
When Ann first arrived to our camp, the sky was pink, and the sandstone a golden glow. I watched as she strolled, her eyes scanning the horizon in every direction. She paused to look up at Comb Ridge and the big sky all around. In this moment, her calm presence, and deep connection to this place were already palpable.
Ann Walka is a poet who splits her time between Bluff, Utah and Flagstaff, Arizona. During our time with her, she encouraged us to investigate this place with the full depth of our senses. Under Monday morning’s blistering sun she brought us down to the shade of a canyon, with Tuesday morning’s rain she brought us to the shelter of a grotto. From each of these bases she encouraged us to disperse off and find a place of solitude from which to explore our language. Each day she gave us loose assignments to encourage this exploration. We made maps, wrote weather reports, personal essays, list poems, and imaginative place-based stories. We sat in observation and free wrote, returning with philosophical quandaries, poems, personifications of the land and much more. With each assignment, she gave us time to ourselves, time to wander and enter the writing from our own place of curiosity.
In our final chair circle with her, underneath the starry sky, she commended how each of us had such distinct, individual voices. I wonder though if she realized the role she played in reminding us how to access this voice. Ann placed herself, a published poet, on a practically equal level with us, a group of students, some of whom couldn’t even remember the last time we wrote creatively. This humble presence, in combination with the space to wonder made it natural for us to put pen to paper and let our voices come through.
By Aliza Anderson-Diepenbrock