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A land of austerity and bounty, the Sonoran Desert is a place that captures imaginations and hearts. It is a place where barbs snag, thorns prick, and claws scratch. A place where lizards scramble and pause, hawks hunt like wolves, and bobcats skulk in creosote.
Both literary anthology and hands-on field guide, The Sonoran Desert is a groundbreaking book that melds art and science. It captures the stunning biodiversity of the world’s most verdant desert through words and images. More than fifty poets and writers—including Christopher Cokinos, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Ken Lamberton, Eric Magrane, Jane Miller, Gary Paul Nabhan, Alberto Ríos, Ofelia Zepeda, and many others—have composed responses to key species of this striking desert. Each creative contribution is joined by an illustration by award-winning artist Paul Mirocha and scientific information about the creature or plant authored by the book’s editors.
From the saguaro to the mountain lion, from the black-tailed jackrabbit to the mesquite, the species represented here have evoked compelling and creative responses from each contributor. Just as writers such as Edward Abbey and Ellen Meloy have memorialized the desert, this collection is sure to become a new classic, offering up the next generation of voices of this special and beautiful place, the Sonoran Desert.
About the Author
Eric Magrane is the first poet-in-residence at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. He has been an artist-in-residence in three national parks and is the founding editor of Spiral Orb, an experiment in permaculture poetics. Magrane is currently completing his PhD in geography at the University of Arizona.
Christopher Cokinos is the author of three books of literary nonfiction: Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds, The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars, and Bodies, of the Holocene. Winner of several national awards, Cokinos teaches in the MFA program at the University of Arizona and is affiliated faculty with the Institute of the Environment.
Paul Mirocha is the artist in residence at Tumamoc Hill. Mirocha has illustrated numerous books, including work by Gary Paul Nabhan and Barbara Kingsolver. Mirocha is the winner of multiple awards, including those from the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.
New Mexico-Arizona Book Award Winner: Best Anthology
A Southwest Book of the Year
“The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide brings to life the beauty, strangeness, and biodiversity of the plants, invertebrates, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians that make the Sonoran Desert their home. It is as charming as it is informative, even if you live nowhere near a desert. What a wonderful resource this book is.” —Ann Fisher-Wirth, co-editor of The Ecopoetry Anthology
“Forget what you think you know about deserts—or field guides. This is something entirely unexpected and entirely necessary. Among the fairy duster and devil’s claw, bobcat and butter-butt—among the tears of laughter and lament—you’ll rediscover another awesome creature that has long found sustenance in the desert: the human creative spirit.” —John T. Price, author of Man Killed by Pheasant: And Other Kinships
“A book of delights for the mind and spirit, this is what a field guide ought to be. What better way to truly see a place than through the unblinking eyes of literature? What better way to truly love a place than through the embrace of ecology? Put them together, as Magrane and Cokinos have brilliantly done, and here is their irresistible invitation to the spectacular desert.” —Kathleen Dean Moore, author of Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature
“A genre-bending book that educates as much as it inspires connection to the desert around us.” —Benjamin Theodore Wilder, coauthor of Plant Life of a Desert Archipelago: Flora of the Sonoran Islands in the Gulf of California
“It’s a book to walk with, a book to scribble in, and even a book to use as a cushion if the desert rock you tried to sit on was too sharp. It’s also a book to get away with. Let the rest of the country rant and rave and post and tweet and babble. The writers inside these pages aren’t listening. They are too busy getting out there and getting lost, naming plants and animals, teaching and learning, and doing the vital work of mapping their place.” —David Gessner, author of All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West
“The Sonoran Desert reads like a dialogue between humans and nature. This is a book that cries to be read outside, to be read aloud, to be thumbed through in the delight of re-discovery as we find again what it is that connects us—cell to cell, heart to heart—to all of those other lives with whom we share this glorious planet: our kin, kind or not.” —Story Circle Book Reviews
"There is science in art; art in science; loveliness in knowledge."—Arizona Daily Star
“For those used to the dry, straightforward prose of a typical field guide, The Sonoran Desert offers a unique literary approach to the plants and creatures of the Sonoran Desert and southern Arizona’s Sky Island region.”—Western American Literature
“These poems and short essays lead readers to engage with the plants and animals they describe word by word and line by line, creating a literary ecology that, like the natural world itself, can be returned to time and again, always revealing something not formerly seen.”—Southwestern American Literature