New poetry stones introduced at Legacy Park

Past Malibu Poet Laureates (from left) Ricardo Means Ybarra, John Struloeff, and Ann Buxie, and current Poet Laureate Nathan Hassall pose with Struloeff's poetry stone during the installation of the stones on Friday, Oct 27 at Legacy Park. Photos by Peter C. Jones

“The poetic sensibility is a different way of looking at the world,” Ann Buxie

A growing poetry program in Malibu is being celebrated with the addition of two new poetry stones at Malibu’s Legacy Park. The stones, which are more like a sculpture or work of art, are set up along a pathway in the park located in the heart of the city. Appropriate since the stones are etched with words that come from the hearts of Malibu’s poet laureates who have been spreading their love of verse with the community. 

Ann Buxie, Malibu’s most recent former poet laureate whose term ended in September after a two-year position explained more about the poetry path. 

“We want each poet laureate to have a stone,” she said. “We’re setting them up along the path in Legacy Park. The city has created an area with decomposed granite to frame off the stones.”

They’re big. Buxie’s, engraved with her poem “Something Pushes,” weighs an astonishing 1,100 lbs. The stones were purchased from a Ventura stone yard. Buxie accompanied Malibu’s first poet laureate Ricardo Means Ybarra to pick out the first. 

“Ellen Reich was the next poet laureate to be gifted with a stone,” Buxie recounted. “We went up there and she thought she could never fall in love with a stone but she sure fell in love with one.” 

Unfortunately, Reich died part-way through her term. John Struloeff took over the rest of Reich’s term. Buxie was next. The current poet laureate, Nathan Hassall, will eventually choose a poem for engraving.

The stone yard prepares the surface and then the piece is sent to an engraver to etch the poem onto the stone. The latest stones were delivered at the end of October.

There are actually five poetry stones in Legacy Park. One, in the children’s play area, is engraved with verse written by a local elementary school student, Mandy Mulligan. Buxie was impressed by the youngster’s writing talent. 

“She gave such a beautiful definition of a poem that I felt it needed to be engraved on a stone,” she said.

Malibu Arts Commissioner Peter Jones added the children’s smaller stone is engraved with a poem analogizing poetry as a river that flows forever. 

“It’s really gorgeous, presented in waves of grass,” Jones said. “It doesn’t look like the ocean but it has the movement of the ocean, flowing water. It’s beautiful.”

Elementary school children learn about poetry with the poet laureates who typically visit all the local Malibu schools to share and teach poetry workshops. 

“We wanted to have a poetry path in Malibu because I really believe that poetic sensibility needs to be part of Malibu,” Buxie explained. “It’s more than ‘is this going to make money or not?’ It’s more than profit and loss. The poetic sensibility is a different way of looking at the world and I think that sensibility needs to be supported and encouraged in Malibu.”

The Malibu Arts Commission is a strong supporter. Caffeinated Verse is a city program that’s been running in Malibu for the last few years. It’s supported in part by the Malibu Library. On the third Saturday of each month in the library’s multipurpose room you’ll hear selected readers present poems, an open mic and conversation. Hassall is now the host who selects featured readers.

The next Caffeinated Verse is Nov. 18, then Dec. 16. Upcoming, Hassall will offer a poetry workshop entitled “The Ripple Effect.” Watch for dates.

“I’m really looking forward to the workshops because as I said I think a poetic sensibility is important to support community,” Buxie said. “It allows time to dream and vision about what you see for our community so you can create a vision you want to work toward. That’s why I like so much that the city is supportive of poetry.”

Jones had lots of praise for the poetry program.

“The poetry program is one of the most successful endeavors of the Arts Commission. With the superb and generous backing of Kristin Riesgo (Malibu Community Services Director) we have had a series of poetry programs that are well attended and joyful,” he said. “I’m very pleased by its expanding audience which is really person by person. New people wander in and like it and they tell their friends. It’s a program that’s done nothing but good, which is so rare in the world in which we live.”