The poet and artist Jean Cocteau is credited with the line, “Writing is an act of love.”
Love for the Four Corners region inspires some to write and many others to read. And, on Friday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m., the public is invited to attend a free event titled “Celebrating the Desert of the New American West” at Star Hall (159 E. Center St.) by three Utah and Colorado writers whose work reflects their deep connections to the land.
Writers Amy Irvine, Craig Childs and Zak Podmore will “talk red rock, rivers and the joy of writing in and of the desert,” according to a press release.
The event is presented by local bookstore Back of Beyond Books (83 N. Main St.) along with Utah-based Torrey House Press. It is supported in part by the Utah Humanities Center for the Book and Utah Division of Arts and Museums, with funding from the State of Utah and National Endowment for the Arts, the press release said.
Back of Beyond event organizer Shari Zollinger said these three authors are “initiating new conversations about conservation and public lands, while living in these landscapes themselves.”
“Zak is an emerging voice,” Zollinger said. “Amy and Craig, they’ve been around for a while.”
Childs is the author of numerous books including “The Secret Knowledge of Water,” “Atlas of a Lost World,” and “Apocalyptic Planet.” He lives in Colorado. His latest book, “Virga & Bone: Essays from Dry Places,” focuses upon “a vivid series of desert icons—a sheet of virga over Monument Valley, white seashells in dry desert sand, boulders impossibly balanced—and delves into the primacy of our starkest landscapes and the profound nature of the more-than-human,” the press release states. He has won the Orion Book Award and has twice won the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award, the Galen Rowell Art of Adventure Award, and the Spirit of the West Award, according to his website, houseofrain.com.
“The three of us speaking have been under each other's influence,” Childs said. “I look at Zak Podmore as the next level of writing, a new generation. When he worked with Amy Irvine and me as a student, I told him to do better than the writers he admires. He's well on his way. Meanwhile, Amy is my sister in arms as a writer and a friend, and we have had a lot to do with each other's creativity. The three of us have different styles and approaches, but we have been exploring the same land and drawing similar conclusions.”
Podmore is a Utah writer who reports for The Salt Lake Tribune and is editor of the Canyon Echo. His new first book "Confluence: Navigating the Personal & Political on Rivers of the New West” explores “the West’s most iconic wilderness rivers, from the Colorado to the Rio Grande,” the press release stated. “Part travelogue and part inquiry into environmental ethics, he presents an up-close, personal perspective on our responsibility to rivers and to each other.” Podmore has written for numerous publications including High Country News and Outside magazine. His writing won a 2018 Folio Eddie Award and a 2019 Top of the Rockies Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, according to his website, zakpodmore.com.
"My debut book, “Confluence,” was published by Torrey House Press this month, and I can't think of a better way to welcome it into the world than a reading at Star Hall alongside Amy Irvine and Craig Childs,” Podmore said. “The book would not exist without Amy and Craig, who were teachers in the MFA program that I completed last year. I’m honored to have been asked to share the stage with two of the best writers the Southwest has ever produced.”
Irvine is a sixth-generation Utahn living off the grid in Colorado. She is the author of the memoir “Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land,” which received the Orion Book Award and Colorado Book Award. Her latest book is “Desert Cabal: A New Season in the Wilderness.” “Desert Cabal” is part memoir and part imaginary conversation with the late Edward Abbey, in which Irvine critiques Abbey, noting “his impact on her life while challenging the ‘lone male' narrative—white and privileged as it is—that still has its boots planted firmly at the center of today’s wilderness movement,” the press release said. Her work has also appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies, according to her website, amyirvine.com.
Irvine said she remembers when she and Childs were the young, up-and-coming writers, and now as established writers they are “passing the baton” to Podmore.
Writing about the desert and its issues–such as national monuments and climate change–is not easy, Irvine said, especially when “the world is more divisive than ever.”
“You have to withstand the storm every time you put a story out,” she said.
But despite the difficulty, Irvine said, it is more important than ever to speak truth and seek the common ground.
“Can we really afford any longer to disagree with one another in the ways we’ve been disagreeing?” she said. “We do, after all, have a planet to save.”
Information about the event can be found at www.backofbeyondbooks.com/events.cfm.