11. Featuring Poet Ross Gay, Margaret Renkl & Billy Renkl

Episode 11 is now available on Spotify, Apple, Google, and Amazon

The WildStory: A Podcast of Poetry and Plants by the Native Plant Society of New Jersey

Hosted by Ann E. Wallace, Ph.D.; Poet Laureate of Jersey City

Co-host Kim Correro; Rutgers Master Gardener and Director of State Programs

Special Contributor Dr. Randi Eckel; Entomologist and Vice President of Membership NPSNJ

Do you have a question about native plants for Randi? Email:

In this episode, we reflect on the passage of time – as we hear from two authors who each created books that span the course of a single year, leading us into joy and sorrow, community and collaboration, nature and plentitude. 

First, poet and essayist Ross Gay (03:43) discusses The Book of (More) Delights. We reflect on the need for delight, and the ways in which we can stand in its light—as well as the human need to be in community, and to create abundance out of beauty. Ross also shares a pair of poems, written in collaboration with his friend and fellow poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil, from their collection Lace and Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens, first published in 2014, a project in which they commune through poetry and nature over the span of a year.

In Ask Randi, Dr. Randi Eckel (38:38) answers a question from Kathy in North Bergen about native trees and the importance of paying attention to species native to our county and eco-region. 

We hear from Kazys Varnelis (46:15), the new President of NPSNJ, about his woodland native garden in Montclair, NJ, his blog the highland florilegium, and the new mini-grant program currently being offered to volunteer organizations, schools, individuals, and groups working to create pollinator gardens and wildlife habitats in open community gardens and public green spaces in NJ. He shares how to apply. 

Special guests Margaret Renkl and Billy Renkl (1:04:22) discuss their collaboration as sister and brother on The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year, a book of weekly observations written by Margaret. Billy created 52 pieces of art, one for each week of the year, to accompany the text. We are invited into the rhythms of the changing seasons, as witnessed through the wildlife in Margaret’s yard, and of the passing years, through the writer’s keen eye, devotional gratitude, and reflective voice.

To close out the episode, we celebrate the publication of The WildStory’s co-host Ann E. Wallace (1:36:23) new poetry collection, Days of Grace and Silence: A Chronicle of COVID’s Long Haul–which in keeping with our unexpected theme for this episode—tracks time through poems, each one dated and presented in chronological order, through the early years of her prolonged illness and of the pandemic.