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Desert Threnody


Fiction, Stories, Essays, One-Act


November 11, 2020


Santa Fe, New Mexico


John Macker


Winner 2021 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award - Fiction Anthology

These assembled pieces from New Mexico poet John Macker, represent about 8 years worth of work. The essays are for the most part, about poets with strong connections to the southwest, some unfairly infamous in their obscurity, a few not quite so obscure: his essays on Edward Dorn and Michael Ondaatje come to mind. In the others, Macker celebrates the much respected but unheralded poets that he’s come to know and admire. The author refers to them as "suspended essays" with no particular grounding except in his enthusiasm and admiration for the words and the ground itself. Maybe suspended just above the ground would be better. The second half of the book consists of a one-act play and several pieces of previously published short fiction, featuring a variety of characters whose passions and tensions are set against the raw, oftentimes uninhabitable beauty of the desert southwest. A totally originally book from the author of Disassembled Badlands and Atlas of Wolves.

“What I like most about Poet John Macker's writing is that he's always pushing the limits of language. DESERT THRENODY is a kind of sampler of his writing life, in that it contains, most unusually, a mixture of critical essays, a play, short stories, and occasional passages of natural history. But whether he is writing critical prose or theatrical dialogue, his language keeps wanting to break into poetry--not from ostentation, I think, but because language never goes quite far enough for him, and he's always reaching for the meaning just beyond words. His subject is the American West, and he may be the best comprehensive thinker and creative artist we have dealing with that huge, still undigested slab of the American past and present.”
⸺ Gerald Nicosia, author of Memory Babe: A Biography of Jack Kerouac

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