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Poet Mary Norbert Korte died in November at age 88

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A poet who spoke out for the preservation of California's mighty old-growth redwoods has gone quiet. Mary Norbert Korte has died. She spent five decades living in a cabin among the trees she sought to protect, typing out her poems on a manual typewriter.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARY NORBERT KORTE: What kind of karma do we lay up for ourselves when we manage the forest, as the agencies say? - also known as civilize, also known as direct, dictate, stipulate, judge, utilize, resource, extract land we never had a hand in making.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Korte was born in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1934. She attended Catholic school, then in the 1950s, became a nun. All the while, she cultivated a passion for poetry.

DAN ROBERTS, BYLINE: She was writing poetry, and Mother Superior was OK with it because it was all devotional kind of poetry.

CHANG: Dan Roberts is a decades-long friend of Korte's and shared recordings of hers from his poetry program on the station KZYX. He recalled that Korte was drawn to San Francisco's beat poetry scene in the 1960s. She even attended readings in her nun's habit and became a noted contributor to the genre.

KELLY: But when she was moved to speak out against the Vietnam War, the church discouraged it, so she left.

ROBERTS: The reason that, I think, Mary did give up her nunhood (ph) was because it was really limiting her and her desire to serve people.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KORTE: Some days, you have to step up. Some days, you have to speak up. Some days, you have to dance. Some days, you have to sing. Some days, you have to pray.

KELLY: Korte moved north to the redwoods and turned her activism to the trees. In 2011, her decades of fighting led to a victory - the preservation of more than 400 acres of old-growth forest.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KORTE: Some days just change your life. Some days, you have to dance. Some days, you have to sing. Some days, you have to pray. Some days take a long, long time to arrive.

KELLY: The poet and activist Mary Norbert Korte - she died last month at her cabin in the redwoods. She was 88. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jason Fuller
Christopher Intagliata
Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.