Category Archives: Announcements

Vox Humana Week on WIZ

As deeply as I feel the charge from hearing a coyote call close by or catching the wood-and-water chuckle of wild turkeys, as fully as wind flittering through cottonwood leaves inspires me to listen and to breathe, I appreciate the sing-sound of the well-turned human tongue.

Sometimes, in lonely canyons, when there’s no one else there, I’ve heard noises my ear interprets as half-words and singing threading around stone bends like odors rising off home cooking.  While intriguing and beautiful, these voices confuse the human ear, which is always hoping for sounds or phrases of address, the touch of deep-reaching words.

As I’ve said elsewhere, people need to feel that touch of fine language but out of need often settle for less, trying, sometimes desperately, to make more of poor speech than is actually there. We strive, like Rapunzel, to spin gold from straw.  Even when by illusion we half-succeed, we often pay for it by loss of relation. Human language is beautiful when it rises out of wellsprings of feeling for others, when people speak in such a way as to make it possible for others to hear. My experience is that animals can also come to rely on the human voice, similarly hoping to feel its strong effects.

Much of our language is a wasteland of discordant sound and unreaching yet grasping words.  For the rest of the month on WIZ, I hope to post links to poets and others reading or singing their work, good stuff that sits nicely in the ear.  If I’m lucky, we’ll get up some podcasts, including of me reading. Anybody visiting WIZ who thinks he or she might have something suitable for broadcast, please email me at

To start, you can go here (link) to hear Leslie Norris read his poem “Water.”  When you reach the link, click on “Listen to Leslie Norris reading ‘Water'”.

[Edited 12/21/13 to weed out odd formatting symbols introduced by a WIZ update done a few years ago.]

Feeling the life week on WIZ

If you’re doing the human being thing with any gusto, you’ve more than likely experienced moments of awakening, of not only feeling more alive yourself but of feeling the lives of others around touching your life, dancing through, affecting and changing who you are, entwining into your being (you can read about some of my awakenings here).  In my opinion, you can’t wind too deeply into life.  And no matter how deeply you do ravel, greater depths and more intricate braiding patterns remain.  If you learn them, they weave you into a lively tapestry that changes nearly every breath you take.

This week on WIZ we’re celebrating that heady condition of feeling the life that you are and the life of others around, be they strangers or loved ones.  We’re singing songs of relishing being alive and of maturing through levels and stages of life.  Have fun, and readers, please feel free to raise in the comments your own thoughts about what it means to feel alive or to face the challenges that  circumstances have presented to your feeling as alive as you desire.

Let’s see what we can make of this third week of August 2009.

August is people month on WIZ

I’ve decided to officially declare August Homo narrans month on WIZ.  Throughout the month, I’ll post narrative prose and poetry that’s people-centric in nature.  Homo narrans (“storytelling man”) is John D. Niles’ provocative turn on our self-assigned scientific designation Homo sapien:

Only human beings possess this almost incredible cosmoplastic power, or world-making ability… Through storytelling, an otherwise unexceptional biological species has become a much more interesting thing, Homo narrans: that hominid who not only has succeeded in negotiating the world of nature, finding enough food and shelter to survive, but also has learned to inhabit mental worlds that pertain to times that are not present and places that are the stuff of dreams (p. 3).

When I write poems and essays that focus on nature, human presence permeates them — my presence out in nature as observer of and participant in some events and also as teller of the stories I relate.  Also deeply important: the audience who follows these narrative trails with me.  Though it might not appear obvious, my writing is all about people.  I wouldn’t present my narratives to audiences if I did not carry deep and growing feeling for fellow humans.  But I worry — a little — that the feeling I bear toward my own kind doesn’t shine through as much as I might hope.   So I’m tipping my hand.

One of the reasons I don’t write much (comparatively) about people is that hummingbirds or deer or swallows don’t especially care much if I write about them, but some of the people with whom I’ve had stunning encounters and whose stories weave through mine might feel put out by my narrative take on events or as if confidences have been betayed.   I embark on this project with the greatest respect and undying affection for my fellow beings.  As far as I’m concerned, the same rules of engagment apply in the human environment as when I’m out in the natural one.

Pretending, for the moment, they are not one and the same environment. 

Throughout August, then, WIZ will run narrative pieces celebrating the human presence on this planet and in general reveling in both the perks and glorious ironies of being human.  Readers wishing to join in — please feel encouraged to do so.   Stories, poems, fiction, or hybrid pieces that weave natural threads through the human narrative tapestry are especially welcome.  Please read the Submissions guidelines then send your best Homo narrans efforts to


Niles, John D.  Homo Narrans: The Poetics and Anthropology of Oral Literature.  Philadephia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.

Summer reading

I’m getting ready to crack the spine on Terry Tempest Williams’ latest book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World.  Over a year ago, I heard her read a little from the pre-publication draft and attended a workshop she conducted.  It was apparent to me that she had changed her approach to her audience somewhat as well as to people she does not expect to be in her audience but are part of her expressed concern with the stances human beings take in or against nature.    

If anybody would like to join me in reading this book, we could discuss it here on WIZ as we go along.  If nobody else wishes to read with me, then I’ll put up a review, probably in August.  It takes me a while to get through a book because I take copious notes but I’ll try to keep up a reasonable pace.

Also, if anybody has reading suggestions for nature-themed fiction, non-fiction nature writing (ex. Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods), or literary science or nature writing, including nature-themed poetry, Mormon or un-, please list them in the comments.

If you would like to read my Field Notes from Williams’ writing workshop, go here.

WIZ open for business

The welcome post for WIZ stated the following:

We launch Wilderness Interface Zone knowing nature literature is something of a spiritual and artistic frontier for Mormons…and yet not.  With Joseph Smith’s First Vision, Mormonism certainly stakes a defensible claim in the tradition of finding God in the wilderness.  Couple this claim with belief in eternal progression, add the central role repentance plays in Mormons’ lives, and Mormons really have quite the lenses for gazing upon the grandeur of the Mystery.  With growing LDS scientific and cultural communities, Mormon literary nature writers ought to abound.  Concern does seem to be mounting in the church for taking a different stance toward how we live in this world, for re-imagining our stewardship in the Creation.  One of WIZ’s raisons d’etre is to support stewardship through story.

The intention at the time was to take a few months to establish WIZ’s tone, rough in its nature then open it up for submissions.  Testing the waters, we had our Spring Poetry Run-off, a successful trial that showed there were writers out there with nature-centric—or not so nature-centric—work that fits WIZ’s vision.

Well, a few months have passed.  We think the time has come to issue an open call for submissions.  Along with building a Mormon nature-wring community, “supporting stewardship through story” remains one of WIZ’s goals.  If you have a short creative nonfiction essay that explores the human-nature story in some way, a criticism essay, a lyrical science essay, a novel or long poem excerpt, a poem of 50 lines or less in length, hybrid literary form, review, commentary, etc., please consider submitting it WIZ.  We’ll also consider posting photographs of original artwork.  To view possible subjects, click on the “Categories” post in the lefthand column.  You’ll see that subjects include everything from field notes to gardens to hoverflies, plus many not yet explored here.  WIZ’s audience, small though it be, will offer feedback.  Your work does not need to be explicitly Mormon in tone or content.  If you are not a Mormon but would like to test your work with a Mormon audience, we welcome your submission.

Amy Irvine McHarg wins Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers

The Ellen Meloy Fund has awarded their grant of $2000 to Amy Irvine, author of Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land, to support her work on her upcoming book, Terra Firma.  This is the fund’s fourth annual grant.

She competed for this grant last year, too, when the award went to Joe Wilkins.

Since then, Trespass has garnered a wide readership.  Like Terry Tempest Williams, Irvine comes from Utah Mormon pioneer stock and engages in broad social criticism of her native culture, especially its land use practices. Continue reading Amy Irvine McHarg wins Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day!*

In honor of spring’s arrival, Wilderness Interface Zone will over the next two weeks post poems celebrating the arrival of “the boyhood of the year” (Tennyson). 

If you have a favorite poem about spring or one in which spring figures prominently or have written one that fits WIZ’s themes and content, e-mail it to us at  Please review our submissions guide before submitting. 

*From “A Prayer in Spring” by Robert Frost

Cool stargazing project

The Salt Lake Tribune reports an annual event to document magnitudes of light pollution across the planet.  This project invites public participation. 

Every year, Globe at Night asks teachers and students, parents and their children, and stargazers located internationally to observe the constellation Orion, specifically his belt.   The website linked above provides all the tools and information needed, although people will need to employ whatever means they have at their disposal to find their latitude and longitude (Globe provides instructions).

The project runs March 16-28.  Orion appears in the east about an hour after sunset and maintains stellar prominence for several hours until he does a belly flop into the western horizon around midnight.  

When I lived in Payson, UT, Orion and the Big Dipper were the only constellations that had the umph to shine through the Utah Valley light pollution and haze with any consistency.   Where I live now, the Milky Way runs in a flood of shimmer on moonless nights—a beautiful, mind-bending swath of other places, times, and events visible from our front and back yards.  Can’t wait to get out there with the kids and see how our drop-dead gorgeous night sky compares with Globe’s magnitude charts.

Ooo, yeah.  We’ve got dark skies here that go on forever.  Very aesthetically and spiritually exciting.   Anybody not having a similarly clear window onto the rest of the galaxy—I’m sorry, but you’re losing the only view that goes on forever that you don’t have to pay for, the one everybody got for free up until the dawning of the last century’s light craze.  Now we’re paying for not having that view.

My best advice: Do what’s necessary to get back what you can of the night sky as well as reduce your electric bill and possibly even sleep better at night.  For good and workable ideas about why and how, go here.

I’ve also written here about light pollution and its effects.

Welcome to Wilderness Interface Zone

There’s something about walking out of the desert or other wild or marginally wild area that you don’t get walking into it.  Something that you feel in your return to others sharing the fire or that comes from sliding into your vehicle to head home at the end of a hike or campout.  Something about completing the journey on foot, walking through the front door, closing the circuit. Continue reading Welcome to Wilderness Interface Zone