words of preservation:

A Poets Laureate National Parks Tour

Texas Poets Laureate Karla K. Morton and Alan Birkelbach launched a joint 4-year project — Words of Preservation: A Poets Laureate National Parks Tour — in 2016 to celebrate the National Park System’s 100 year anniversary … and to help preserve the parks for the next 100 years.

As part of the project, Morton and Birkelbach visited ALL 62 of the U.S. National Parks, documenting their journey through poetry and photography, ultimately creating a book — The National Parks: A Century of Grace — NOW AVAILABLE — and published by TCU Press. The poets will donate a percentage of their proceeds from the sale of the book to the National Park Service.

The tour kicked off with an NPR Wyoming interview and an incredible visit to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton National Park.

Along the way, Morton and Birkelbach presented a POETRY IN THE PARKS program, speaking at libraries, universities, National Parks, arts venues and bookstores, doing poetry readings + Q&A sessions about the creative process, poetry and their tour. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and John Muir, Morton and Birkelbach hope to contribute to the exploration, preservation and protection of our country’s most natural, beautiful spaces.

Morton writes: “In this digital age, there is no replacement for the grandeur of Mother Nature. Wonder cannot be imported or exported, but it can be captured with words, and we can think of no better treasure to explore, champion and share through our work than our National Parks.”

the book

With the foreword written by Michael Martin MurpheyThe National Parks: A Century of Grace is a poetry and photography journey through all 62 U.S. National Parks. It’s perfect for anyone who treasures our country’s natural spaces, wants to be inspired as they make their own National Park plans or wants a beautiful armchair travel portal during these unusual times.



Book the Texas Poets Laureate for a media interview, as keynote speakers or for a National Parks celebration or event.

new song – “go around”!

Throughout their Words of Preservation Tour, Karla and Alan have often been asked about their stance on protecting the parks. In short, it is: “Go Around.” And they have written a song with the same title — Go Around — that was in conjunction with National Park Service National Parks Week and Earth Day. The song’s lyrics were written Karla and Alan, with music and vocals by singer-songwriter Lisa Carver. The song is available digitally on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Google Play, Tidal, Deezer and CDbaby.com.

“What do you think of when you hear the words ‘poet laureate?’ Esoteric, brilliant, and maybe even ‘inaccessible and unapproachable?’ Well, Durango Public Library learned otherwise when Karla Morton and Alan Birkelbach visited us as part of their National Parks Tour. They were funny, down-to-earth, and just plain entertaining! Each read from their poetry and talked about the creative process and their roles as Texas Poets Laureate. Then – they donated signed copies of a couple of their books to us – a librarian’s dream come true! We hope they will swing back through Durango in the future, and we wish them well on their innovative and interesting National Parks Tour.”​

~ Megan Kinney, Durango Public Library

tour support

Thank you to Patrick and Andrea Marshall, Words of Preservation patrons. We are honored by and appreciate your support of our project! A special thank you to in-kind tour sponsor Pendleton, the maker of the beautiful Badlands National Park blanket shown here.