mad in pursuit journal


Terry Tempest Williams

"If you know where you are, you know who you are." [Wendell Berry]

Last night we went to the annual Art of Fact lecture presented by the SUNY Brockport Writers Forum. The award honors the best writers in the genre of literary nonfiction — this year Terry Tempest Williams.

We went not knowing what to expect. We were both blown away.

The writing of Terry Tempest Williams evokes an austere vision of the beauty of the wild lands of the American West and evokes in the reader a passionate attachment to that beauty. As an environmental activist, she's been a leader in the ongoing struggle to save the wild from development and to protect the once-wild from over exploitation. [Brockport press release]

The press release hardly does justice to how this woman uses words, taking "facts" and exploding them into poetry.

But maybe the real lesson is not how she uses words but how she perceives the world. Her themes are geography and conservation, family history, and politics but she manages to weave them together so that everything becomes a metaphor for everything else. I guess it's about seeing the interconnectedness of everything. Seeing/perceiving is integrated with expressing.

She certainly provides me with goals for my own plodding expression. Too many years writing academic papers and planning reports have fixated me on explaining things in a clear, linear manner — not a bad skill, but poetry it ain't.

Her most powerful image of the evening came when she talked about her next book. Written as an antidote to our genocidal and post-9/11 world, she calls it "Mosaic: Finding Beauty in a Broken World." When the world shatters around you, pick up all the pieces and create a mosaic. I love that.



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"Art as a Spark for Social Change" by TTW about a project with Rwandan genocide survivors.

TTW home page provides the current scoop and links to TTW's current activities and writing.

"The Politics of Place: an interview with TTW" by Scott London