As another offering to all of you in your gardens during this fall and heading-into-winter planting and planning season, we take a little poetic back-track to our conversation with award-winning poet and life-long home-gardener Camille Dungy.
Camille is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan UP, 2017), winner of the Colorado Book Award, and the essay collection Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood and History (W.W. Norton, 2017), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She was a Guggenheim fellow in 2019, in 2021 she was awarded the Academy of American Poets Treehouse Climate Action poetry prize. Camille is also a University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.
This conversation was longer than I could fit into our one-hour on-air time frame, so for terrestrial listeners please check out this week’s podcast version of Cultivating Place up above through the Soundcloud link to hear the full conversation, including Camille reading another poem to be included in her upcoming collection of garden based poems entitled Soil, The History of A Black Mother’s Garden. I was so pleased that she was able to read both Tropic Cascade and Smith's Blue for the on-air version of the program.
If you enjoy hearing poets read their work, I think you would love to follow this link to a recent wonderful multi-media piece "Black Gardeners Find Refuge in the Soil" a collection of black gardening voices from the New York Times, written by garden friend and garden scholar Abra Lee of Conquer the Soil. In the piece, Camille reads a wonderful garden-based poem "Garden Style: A Procession".
Dungy’s other poetry collections are Smith Blue (Southern Illinois UP, 2011), finalist for the William Carlos Williams Award, Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, 2010), winner of the American Book Award, and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison(Red Hen Press, 2006), finalist for PEN the Center USA Literary Award for Poetry. Dungy edited Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (UGA, 2009), co-edited the From the Fishouse poetry anthology (Persea, 2009), and served as assistant editor on Gathering Ground: Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade (University of Michigan Press, 2006). Her poems and essays have appeared in Best American Poetry, Best American Travel Writing, 100 Best African American Poems, nearly 30 other anthologies, plus dozens of print and online venues including Poetry, American Poetry Review, VQR, Guernica, and Poets.org. Other honors include two Northern California Book Awards, a California Book Award silver medal, two NAACP Image Award nominations, two Hurston/Wright Legacy Award nominations, fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and fellowships from the NEA in both poetry and prose.
Camille and I have been in conversation about your being a guest on the program for several years, I am so pleased to share this conversation forward.
All home garden and plant-love photos from Camille's Fort Collins, Colorado by Mary Ellen Sanger and Callie Dungy.
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JOIN US again next week, when we continue with a fall and winter planning and planting focus on design – this time in conversation with Nick and Allison McCullough – of McCullough landscape & Nursery, a design, build and maintenance firm based in New Albany, Ohio. Their new book American Roots, Lesson and Inspiration from the Designers Reimagining our Home Gardens, is a transcontinental tour of a diversity of modern home garden design offering lessons and inspiration seasons with playfulness, passion, and purpose. Listen in!
Thinking out loud this week:
Ever since I was a child I have associated gardening and my life with plants with poetry – there are so many poets whose words move me specifically because they introduce me to the plants I love all all over again – fresh – with their poetic perspectives. This could be Stanley Kunitz, this could be Ross Gay, this could be Walt Whitman or Emily Dickenson, or Joy Harjo….the list is long and deep, wide and wonderful. Do you have a favorite plant, garden poem or poet? I’d love to hear more – send me an email and I will share your selections forward with others. Cultivating firstname.lastname@example.org or Dm or tag me on Instagram where you’ll find me @cultivating_place. This is a favorite bit from a Rilke poem: You, beloved, who are all the gardens I have ever gazed at, longing…” This line often comes to mind for me in the autumn garden…not sure why, but I love it all the same.
I overuse the word powerful don’t I? I don’t care. That’s what we are - we are powerful as gardeners as humans no matter if we garden on our windowsills, on our farms, or simply by supporting others who garden and/or grow our food or our environment.
We must embrace and care for and watch over and wield this power with all of our hearts and all of our mental alacrity. We can make a difference.
Which Trophic Cascades will you and your garden to be part of in 2022. The most rejuvenating and connective of ones. These are my hopes and prayers for us as Gardeners for this autumnal planting and planning window.
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