Friday, 11 May 2007

New Publication:

Poems to the Desert

POEMS TO THE DESERT is a chapbook of poetry by Howard Gayton, published by Trix Press in May, 2007. The book contains photographs by Stu Jenks, and an introduction by Terri Windling.

The poems chronicle the author's travels through the Arizona desert, 2005 - 2007. Here, the book's introduction explains, "you'll find poems of sly coyotes and dancing javelinas; of sweat-lodge, deer dance, and other Native American ceremonies; of journeys by foot and road and inward journeys by an ever-questing soul...."

Two of the poems were first published in The Journal of Mythic Arts, and can be read on-line here.

For ordering information, write to:

About the Author: Howard Gayton was raised in Oxfordshire, studied Drama at the University of Exeter, and is now a theatre director, mask performer, and a writer of fiction, poetry, and plays. He is the co-founder and co-artistic director of the London-based Ophaboom Theatre Company, which has toured throughout Europe performing contemporary mask theatre in the “Commedia dell’ Arte” tradition. He has also devised and directed shows for the Little Angel Puppet Theatre in London and other companies in the U.K. and Europe.

More information on the author can be found on the Endicott Studio website, the Ophaboom Theatre Company page, Ophaboom's MySpace page, and Wikipedia. His article on creating fairy tale theatre for children can be found on-line in the Spring 2006 issue of The Journal of Mythic Arts.

About the Artist: Stu Jenks was born in Virginia, studied Fine Art at the University of North Carolina, and is now a photographer based in Tucson, inspired by the spirited desert landscape of southern Arizona. "Each time I shoot,” he says, “I learn a little more about the space I'm in, both physically and emotionally. My images are often as much about an exploration of my spiritual reality as they are about an appreciation of form, space, place and design. And sometimes they are just about being playful and magical."

Stu Jenk's photographs have been exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States. To see more of his work, visit the Fezziwig website and blog.

Introduction to "Poems from the Desert"

The Sonororan Desert, which stretches from southern Arizona to northern Mexico, is a landscape like no other. It's a land baked dry and dusty by the sun, yet also rich with life and lush with vegetation: with prickly pear, cholla, and saguaro cactus; with mesquite and palo verde trees; with bright bursts of desert wildflowers and chaparral that smells like heaven when it rains. The Tucson basin is surrounded by mountain ranges and guarded by the peaks of Baboquivari, the sacred mountain that the Tohono O'odham honor as the centre of the universe. The Tohono O'odham and Yaqui (or Yoeme) are two of the many Indian nations that call the desert home, keeping the cycles of the seasons turning with their traditions, prayers, and ceremonies. Hard against their pueblos and reservations, a modern American city sprawls, where Anglo, Mexican, and Native cultures mix to give Tucson its distinctive flavour.

Howard Gayton first came to the American South-West from the South-West of England in 2005. Travelling with the aid of an Arts Council England grant, his aim was to study the use of masks by Mexican and Native American communities – and to further his own understanding of masks as a performer, teacher, and director of a Commedia dell’ Arte theatre company. He talked to mask makers, watched masked performances, and participated in Native American ceremonies…and as he did so, he fell under the powerful spell of cactus and coyote song, finding himself at home in the desert in ways he never expected.

He’s not the first writer from Somewhere Else to find himself seduced by this land. Although there are excellent home-grown Arizona writers, there’s also a strong tradition here of writers and artists born into vastly different countries, cultures and landscapes who find that their muse is powerfully moved by the desert’s prickly spirit and clarity of light. Kentucky native Barbara Kingsolver wrote three love songs to southern Arizona in her novels The Bean Trees, Animal Dreams, and Pigs in Heaven. Oklahoma-born Tony Hillerman beautifully evoked the land and mixed cultures of northern Arizona in his award-winning Navajo mysteries. Canadian writer Charles de Lint conjured a primal, powerful desert magic in the novels Forests of the Heart and Medicine Road. Kim Antieau from the Pacific Northwest found mermaids sunning in Tucson’s dry wash beds in her novel Church of the Old Mermaids.

The last two books listed above were inspired by their authors’ stay at Endicott West, an arts retreat in the mountain foothills near Tucson. Endicott West is also where Howard wrote the “Herman poems” collected here. “Herman” was the name bestowed on him by a five-year-old Tohono O’odham friend (who couldn’t quite get her tongue around “Howard”), and it became his Arizona alter-ego: a cowboy-hat-wearing, pick-up-truck driving, poetry-writing desert dweller. Although he has long been a writer as well as a dramatist, Howard says that he didn’t come to the Sonora intending to write poetry. “It’s the desert itself,” he says, “ that seems to call poetry out of me, almost seeming to demand this kind of a response. The land is spare, stripped down to its essence – as poetry is, or ceremony, or prayer. Each time I’ve come, it has seemed like the land itself is gifting me with poems.”

In this chapbook, you’ll find poems of sly coyotes and dancing javalinas; of sweat-lodge, deer dance, and other ceremonies; of journeys by foot and journeys by road and journeys inward by an ever- questing soul. The photographs in the book are by Virginia-born artist Stu Jenks, who has made his home in Tucson for over twenty years. Like Howard, his work is a hymn to the desert and a celebration of Spirit.

Terri Windling
Endicott West

Poetry E-Postcard

The text above is from "Medicine" by Howard Gayton; the photograph is "Ancestor's Circle" by Stu Jenks. To send this image as an e-postcard, click here.

Poetry E-Postcard

The text above is excerpted from "Javelina: Pronounced Havelina" by Howard Gayton; the drawing is by Terri Windling. To send this image an e-postcard, click here.