What Wildness is This:
Women Write About the Southwest

edited by Susan Wittig Albert, Susan Hanson,
Jan Epton Seale, Paula Stallings Yost

University of Texas Press, 2007. ISBN 0292716303.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 04/11/2007

Anthologies/Collections; Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment

What a treat! Not only are the stories and poems inside the cover delightful, passionate, insightful and/or all of the above, but handling the book itself is a delight. From the picture on the cover connecting past and present to the deckled edges and the weight of the pages, What Wildness is This is a pleasure to handle.

Inside, riches flow. Here you will find women who pour out their passion for, and their connection with places in the Southwest. The places vary from solitary canyons casting protective shadows from the blazing sun through open prairies with dancing grasses to city backyards shielding home-nests of families from urban chaos. The women who write these words write with deep feeling, fine writing and connections to Nature. These are not mere descriptions; in many cases, they are love songs.

About half of the almost 100 writers in Wildness were chosen from a call for entries by Story Circle Network, a national organization dedicated to helping women tell their stories. The others are previously published writers including Joy Harjo, Terry Tempest Williams and Barbara Kingsolver.

In the introduction, Kathleen Dean Moore writes, "the women write with a heady freedom from definition and expectation, exploring the folds and shadows of the whole geography of language and land, heart and mind." The writings are arranged into themes such as: how we live on the land, our journeys through the land, nature uncovered in urban life, our kinship with the animal world, what we hope to leave behind and other related topics.

Cindy Bellinger says it well in her "This Land on my Face", "It seeps under your skin, coursing through your veins like footsteps following old mountain trails. Before you know it, the land settles on your face. And you know you're home." There are so many delicious quotes that I can not include them all. The poetry, much of it written by First Americans, soars. As I read, I look into my own backyard, and nod my head in harmony with the writer. I remember the trails I've hiked in Bandolier National Monument in New Mexico. I am given the feeling of having been where I will never, in this reality, go. And, I, always a city gal, can taste the honeysuckle, experience the dust and feel the sweat provided by vivid memories of rural life in the Southwest,

What Wildness is This takes you not only deep into the Nature of the Southwest but also into the Nature of many selves. By reading this anthology, you will find yourself visiting your own inner landscape as well.

To read more about this book, see What Wildness is This.

(See another review of this book, here)

Check out our interview with Paula Yost.

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