Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Poet Alison Deming Discusses "Encounters with the Archdruid”

BISBEE, AZ – In conjunction with World Habitat Awareness Month, Arizona Humanities Council Scholar Dr. Alison Deming, poet, essayist, and Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Arizona, will facilitate a book discussion of John McPhee’s Encounters with the Archdruid at the Copper Queen Library on April 16 at 6:30pm in the Library Meeting Room.

Encounters with the Archdruid is John McPhee's superb recounting of three episodes in the life of famous mountaineer, outdoorsman, environmental activist, and Sierra Club leader David Brower.

Born in 1915, Brower has arguably been the single most influential American environmentalist in the last half of the 20th century; even the Department of the Interior grudgingly credits him with having nearly single-handedly halted the construction of a dam in the heart of the Grand Canyon, and he has converted thousands, even millions, of his compatriots to the preservationist cause through his work with the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and other organizations.

In Encounters, McPhee takes Brower into the wilderness – first backpacking in the North Cascades with Charles Park, a mining engineer who discusses plans for a copper mine in a protected wilderness area; then camping on Cumberland Island with Charles Fraser, the developer of nearby Hilton Head who also wants to develop Cumberland (and who provided the title for McPhee's book, commenting that conservationists are at heart druids who "sacrifice people and worship trees"); and, finally, boating on Lake Powell and then rafting down the Grand Canyon with former Interior Secretary Floyd Dominy, who oversaw the construction of Glen Canyon Dam, a structure that for Brower stands as one of the most hated creations of our time.

Few writers would be more qualified to discuss McPhee than Arizona Humanities Council Scholar Alison Deming. The author of three nonfiction books – Temporary Homelands, The Edges of the Civilized World (which was a finalist for the PEN Center West Award), and Writing the Sacred into the Real (Credo Series: Notable American Writers on Nature, Community and the Writer Life) – she also co-edited with Lauret E. Savoy The Colors of Nature: Essays on Culture, Identity and the Natural World, published three volumes of poetry, Science and Other Poems (selected by Gerald Stern for the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets), The Monarchs: A Poem Sequence, and Genius Loci, and edited Poetry of the American West: A Columbia Anthology.”

Deming received an MFA from Vermont College (1983) and held a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University (1987-88). Her writing has won two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1990 and 1995), fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown (1984-85), the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and the Tucson/Pima Arts Council, a Residency Award from the National Writer's Voice Project, the Pablo Neruda Prize from NIMROD, the Pushcart Prize, the Gertrude B. Claytor Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the Bayer Award in science writing from Creative Nonfiction for the essay “Poetry and Science: A View from the Divide.”

She has held residencies at Yaddo, Cummington Community for the Arts, the Djerassi Foundation, Mesa Refuge, The Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, The Island Institute in Sitka, Alaska, Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers in Scotland, and the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest.

Sponsored by the Friends of the Copper Queen Library and made possible in part by a grant from the Arizona Humanities Council, this book discussion is free and open to the public. Elevator access is available.

For further information, contact the library at 432-4232.