Poetry — August 19, 2015 9:40 — 1 Comment

Shin Yu Pai’s Poetry Orchard

Shin Yu Pai’s latest project, HEIRLOOM, is a site-specific public art project where she printed language on antique apples in Piper’s Orchard in Carkeek Park, Seattle.Using vinyl stencils and the light of the sun, she “burned” words into the peels of ripening apples. The words on the apples, she says, represent the titles of individual sections from a long poem (below) written in the form of an abecedarian, or alphabet poem, which explores the history of it and our human connection to it.

_DSC8223_ ShinYu_tonemapped(1)

(Image above by Thendara Kida-Gee)

Jake Uitti:
So tell me about your latest project!

Shin Yu Pai: I just put the last batch of vinyl stencils on a dozen apple trees in Piper’s Orchard (in Carkeek Park) yesterday with help of volunteers. I wrote a long poem in 26 sections and I am installing parts of that poem in the apple trees.

JU: How can people tour the place?

SYP: Well right now they’d have to do a self-guided tour – but better yet, they can do one with me as guide! I will do tours of the orchard next on August 29. In between now and then, the apples need time to redden.

My aim with the project was to try something different as an artist – the idea integrated my commitments to both photography and writing. Essentially, the orchard is one giant low-tech photogram, a huge light-sensitive surface.

I planned on writing a site-specific text and then it made sense to bring it into the space of the orchard. So it’s a new play on “place-based writing.”

JU: What are the guided tours going to be like on the 29th?

SYP: They’ll be from 2-3pm and 3-4 pm and I’ll walk a group down from the learning center there and take them to the orchard where I’ll talk about its history. Then I’ll talk about where the project came from for me (hint: it’s deeply connected to becoming a mother and my relationship to my child/family) and then I’ll read the poem (7 min long or less). Jack Straw is working on getting some musicians there to play, as well. Jim De Joie played on Tuesday for our last tour! And after I read, I will talk a little bit about the challenges of the project and show people the stencils and words and encourage self-exploration.




Excerpts from HEIRLOOM

freckled, scabbed &
spotted Astrakhans
ushered from Russia
heritage strains older
than the Arctic©[1]


gleaned & given
thousands of pounds
of unsellable fruit
circulate to city
food banks


arbors full of stars
five-pointed calyxes
scoring undersides
of apples


“stark’s hawkeye”
stocking grocers thick-
skinned, overgrown
bred for its hue, “retains
its cheerful good looks
long after its flavor has departed”
– mealy mouthfeel of
an American classic



apple of my


beneath ivy & thorn,
arching cane & suckering
root, ruin – the forest orchard
“gone to seed”


SHIN YU PAI is the author of several poetry collections, including AUX ARCS (La Alameda, 2013), Adamantine (White Pine, 2010), Sightings (1913 Press, 2007), and Equivalence (La Alameda, 2003). She has exhibited her visual work and collaborations at The Three Arts Club of Chicago, McKinney Avenue Contemporary, International Print Center, Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College, 516 Arts, The Ferguson Gallery at The University of Alabama, The American Jazz Museum, Harvard University, and the University of Texas at Dallas. Her work has been commissioned twice by the Dallas Museum of Art. For more information, visit http://www.shinyupai.com.

[1] Non-browning genetically engineered apple approved by the United States Department of Agriculture for commercial planting in 2015.


Jake Uitti is a founding editor of The Monarch Review.

One Comment

  1. R Knox says:

    Thanks Jake and ShinYu Pai. Living in apple country here in the Okanogan, I really appreciate your poems. You may have already looked at the wide variety of apples, particularly old varieties of apples-some of the names are great. Great day!

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From the forest
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