Sunday, December 2, 2012

Mabel, Contemporary Taos Women Writers, Good Reads

On the long, scarred table under the west window at the left of the front door, always open day and night out on the lawn portal, there were a couple of rows of books, one in front of the other, the new books that will presently be shifted out to the book room. Such a mixture, too! The last mystery story, the last scientific premise, the last mystical doctrine, the last hard-boiled novel, and all the new books friends have sent this year with tender inscriptions in them. 
Mabel loved books. She read voraciously and widely. This description from her volume Winter in Taos shows the importance books played in her life. Considering she wrote hers in the 1930s, it's a tribute to her that Edge of Taos Desert, Lorenzo in Taos and Winter in Taos are still in print. So is Intimate Memories, a selection of Mabel's memoirs edited by Lois Rudnick.

I enjoy reading Mabel's works. She gives voice to each era of her life through vivid description of the people, places and times. I love the descriptions of Taos which make me long to travel back to Mabel's time. It made me wonder if her books would have garnered literary prizes. She certainly won notice in her day.

Book honors have been on my mind. At this year's Remarkable Women of Words Festival, I discovered that several participants received recent awards. So let me introduce five of our Taos prize-winning writers.

Veronica Golos. Photo by Lenny Foster.

Veronica Golos is the author of Vocabulary of Silence (Red Hen Press, 2011), winner of the 2011 New Mexico Book Award. Veronica also wrote A Bell Buried Deep, co-winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize (Story Line Press). Her work has been widely published and anthologized nationally and internationally. Veronica was awarded residencies at the Wurlitzer Foundation and a Creative Woman Fellowship by A Room of Her Own, among others. Her book, A Bell Buried Deep, was adapted for stage in New York’s Theatre Row, and at Claremont Theological Seminary in California. Veronica has lectured on “How to Teach Poetry to Young Children” at Hunter College, the Teacher’s College of Columbia University and at Colorado State University. She’s been the poet-in-residence at Sacred Heart Academy in Connecticut, and at the former Yaxche School in Taos.Veronica is co-editor of the newly launched Taos Journal of Poetry & Art, and the Acquisitions Editor for 3:A Taos Press. A lifelong activist for social justice, humanitarian and peace causes, Veronica uses her poetry not only to interpret and question but “to challenge and act.”

Vocabulary of Silence is an exploration of war and its witnessing-from-afar.  “Golos takes the fragments, the bits and pieces that reach us from the battlefield, and weaves them with a morality and a sorrow,” states writer and journalist Barbara Nimri Aziz.  Poems from Vocabulary of Silence have been translated into Arabic and Spanish.

Cover image, sculpture by Conrad Cooper*


My past washes back, a low tide,
a haunting song.

Like the zing of the arrow
sound has a shape.

Flesh. There will be war.
Witness. Stand on the field

as the ones who are already dead
need you to. Stare. Never let go.

One can not measure
death. I know--

I am the one who cuts--broken
as the edge of your cup.

See--the bow I have become, the bones, the arrow--

man, but not a man.
Poem from Vocabulary of Silence courtesy of Veronica Golos

Bonnie Lee Black. Photo by Lenny Foster.

In March 2012 Bonnie Lee Black received a “Best in the World” award from Gourmand International in Paris, France, for How to Cook a Crocodile: A Memoir with Recipes. Bonnie has been a professional writer and editor for nearly 30 years and an educator in the U.S. and overseas for over 15 years. Her Somewhere Child (Viking Press, NY, 1981), a memoir that chronicles Bonnie's  journey to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Africa, centers on reclaiming her abducted child. Bonnie's book was instrumental in the creation of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It still appears on reading lists of organizations designed to help parents of abducted children. Bonnie's essays have appeared in a number of published anthologies and literary journals, including (most recently) Alimentum, Persimmon Tree, and Under the Sun. She is also the editor of the newly published SOMOS (Society of the Muse of the Southwest) fundraising cookbook, Storied Recipes (2012). Bonnie currently teaches in both the English and Culinary Arts departments at the University of New Mexico, Taos.

Synopsis of  How to Cook a Crocodile: Casting caution to the wind at the age of fifty, New York caterer and food writer Bonnie Lee Black decided to close her catering business and join the Peace Corps.  Posted to the tiny town of Lastoursville in the thickly rainforested interior of Gabon, Central Africa, Bonnie taught health, nutrition, and cooking, in French, primarily to local African women and children.  In the two years she served in Gabon, Bonnie developed her own healthy recipe for a purposeful life, made in equal measures of good food, safe shelter, meaningful work, and unexpected love.  Like M.F.K. Fisher’s classic World War II-era book, How to Cook a Wolf, Bonnie’s true stories comprise a lively, literary, present-day survival guide.

Lise Goett. Photo by Judith Bishop.

Lise Goett is the 2012 winner of the Robert H. Winner Memorial Award in Poetry from the Poetry Society of America for her manuscript, Leprosarium.  Her other awards include The Paris Review Discovery Award, The Pen Southwest Book Award in Poetry, and The Barnard New Women Poets Prize for her first poetry collection, Waiting for the Paraclete, as well as postgraduate fellowships from The Milton Center and the Creative Writing Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Lise has taught Creative Writing at New York University and the University of New Mexico, Taos, among other institutions. She was awarded residencies at the Julia and David White Artists’ Colony, Cuidad Colón, Costa Rica and the Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos. Lise won the Academy of American Poets Prize at Columbia University and was a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including the Paris Review, Ploughshares, and the Antioch Review.

Poet Carolyn Forché reviewed Lise's first poetry collection:

This exemplary first collection is the lyric record of a contemplative spirit's going-forth, of her soul's discernment, the experience of personal and intimate communion, erotic passion and divine mystery, corporeal hunger and 'naught else but yearning' for the mysterium tremendum. There is a radiance about these poems, and a supplicant's willingness to lay bare the desire enshrined in her very selfhood. For this poet, music is the soul's correlative, the sheath that allows the journey to be borne.


Look up.  Your life is suddenly ending–

the pages yellow, the lamplight yellow–

the face of someone you love the halo

of autumn burning.  The wending white string

which has taken you down so many corridors

is Ariadne’s thread through the darkness.

Outside, the beast is shaking its harness.

Look up from the cracks in your

brown leather shoes into a room where someone

is working an acrostic that always spells winter,

snow falling thick on the serpentine walk, white wicker

chairs in a state of surrender. These are the lees

of the thoughts you can’t master–the street

an archipelago numbed. 

copyright The Paris Review, 2001 

Poem from Waiting for the Paraclete courtesy of Lise Goett

Summer Wood. Photo by Miriam Berkley

Author of two novels, Arroyo (Chronicle Books) and Raising Wrecker (Bloomsbury), Summer Wood's non-fiction work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler and other venues. In 2007 she was awarded the $50,000 Literary Gift of Freedom from A Room of Her Own Foundation. During her award period, Summer worked on Raising Wrecker, published in 2011. Her book received the 2012 WILLA Award for Contemporary Fiction from Women Writing the West. Summer considers it an honor to join the distinguished list of previous awardees, including Annie Proulx, Pam Houston and Debra Magpie Earling. Raising Wrecker—newly released in paperback—reaped other recognition: a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, a BookBrowse Editors’ Choice, and a UK Booksellers’ Choice. Summer teaches writing to adults at the University of New Mexico’s Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. She currently serves as Executive Editor at Voices from the American Land.

After unexpectedly foster-parenting four young siblings, Summer Wood tried to imagine a place where kids like these would find the love and the family they deserved. For her, that world is realized through a boy named Wrecker, the central character in her second novel.  

One-sentence synopsis: Set amid the giant trees of Northern California’s magical Lost Coast, Raising Wrecker is a rich and rollicking novel for anyone who has ever raised a son, or loved someone else’s. Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness, deemed Summer's novel  "a love song to well-intentioned, wholly dedicated, and deeply flawed motherhood. It's a big-hearted, big-loving compassionate book.”

Sawnie Morris. Photo by Brian Shields.

Sawnie Morris won the 2010 Poetry Society of America’s George Bogin Memorial Award "for a selection of four or five poems that use language in an original way to reflect the encounter of the ordinary and extraordinary and to take a stand against oppression in any of its forms." In 2007 she was co-winner of the New Mexico Book Award for the chapbook The Sound a Raven Makes. Her poems have appeared in Denver Quarterly,, The Journal, Women’s Review of Books and other magazines. Her prose on poetry has appeared in The Kenyon Review, Contemporary Literary Criticism, and Boston Review. She teaches poetry and literature workshops privately and at the University of New Mexico, Taos. She is the co-founder and current Assistant to the Director of Amigos Bravos: Because Water Matters, a non profit advocacy organization for New Mexico’s rivers and waterways, established in 1988.

About The Sounds a Raven Makes: Sawnie Morris of Taos, Michelle Holland of Chimayó, and Catherine Ferguson of Galisteo are three poets of rural northern New Mexico who share a deep language of landscape and grounded life. These women have given to their communities and paid some mighty poetic dues. This book came out of patience and time, but its pages are a necessary bliss.

The Watery Sound a Raven Makes 

The soul picks and threads 
on a day bright with cloudlessness,
wind, and a cottonwood 

trailing its fingers in feathery currents 
void of water or rain, though a sally of ravens 
caresses the air. Obsidian wings 

flapping their skirts. Round dance in blue, 
sky-filled quadrille. Inversion. Ellipsis: 
trapeze without wire, without net. 

Euclidian tip of a hat. Birds
entranced by tutelary gossip. 
Mail box. Billboard. Garbage bin. 

Their cackle and caw is rain 
in the mind of the desert. 
Uneven chatter of droplets. 

Gardens thirsty and shy. 
Large black birds 
of middle-morning, circle. 

Rock. Fence. Dirt. Wind. 
Anguish of drought. 
Passion of rain.
Poem from The Sound a Raven Makes courtesy of Sawnie Morris.

These women contribute to the literary and educational landscape of Taos--and the wider world. And to my reading pleasure. I don't know about you, but I'm always looking for a "thumping good read." In the rush of the holiday season, I hope you'll find "oasis time" for reading over a fragrant cup of coffee or tea. I invite you to put these Taos women writers on your book lists. I rate them all as good reads.

Adios for now,

*Sculptor Conrad Cooper lives in Taos.

Cover image of The Sound a Raven Makes courtesy of Tres Chicas Books, New Mexico. This book is nearly out of print. One of the editors, Joan Logghe, informed me it can be ordered from Tres Chicas or from Small Press Distribution in Berkeley.The Tres Chicas--Joan Logghe, Miriam Sagan, Renee Gregoria--have recently published a compiliation of their poems titled Love & Death: Greatest Hits. Another winner of a New Mexico Book Award, this also constitutes a good read.