Alison Hawthorne Deming

Essayist and Nonfiction Writer
AuthorAward Winning Poet
Travels from: Tucson, AZ

“With the skill and care of an artisan poet, she brings us the textures of nearly lost words and the craft that required them.”– Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass

Alison Hawthorne Deming is an award winning poet and nonfiction writer. Her new nonfiction book A Woven World: On Fashion, Fishermen, and the Sardine Dress was published by Counterpoint Press in August, 2021. Her most recent books are the poetry collection Stairway to Heaven and Death Valley: Painted Light, a collaboration with photographer Stephen Strom, and the essay collection Zoologies: On Animals and the Human Spirit was published by Milkweed Editions in 2014. A recent Guggenheim Fellow, she is the author of Science and Other Poems, winner of the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets; The Monarchs: A Poem Sequence, Genius Loci, and Rope; and three additional nonfiction books, Temporary Homelands, The Edges of the Civilized World, a finalist for the PEN Center West Award, and Writing the Sacred Into the Real. She edited Poetry of the American West: A Columbia Anthology and co-edited with Lauret E. Savoy The Colors of Nature: Essays on Culture, Identity, and the Natural World.

Deming received an MFA from Vermont College, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, two poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Tucson/Pima Arts Council, and the National Writer’s Voice.

Her work has been widely published, including in The Norton Book of Nature Writing and Best American Science and Nature Writing.She has held residencies at Yaddo, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Mesa Refuge, Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, The Hermitage Artist Retreat and the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon.

Working with the Language of Conservation Project sponsored by Poets House in New York City, Deming curated the poetry installation at the Jacksonville (FL) Zoo and Gardens. Among her most keen interests is the intersection of art and science. Former Director of the University of Arizona Poetry Center and Agnese Nelms Haury Chair of Environment and Social Justice, she is Regents Professor at the University of Arizona, where in 2015 she founded the Field Studies in Writing Program.

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A Woven World: On Fashion, Fishermen, and the Sardine Dress

Counterpoint |
Memoir

The desire to create is the cornerstone of civilization. But as we move into a world where machine manufacturing has nearly usurped craft, Alison Hawthorne Deming resists the erasure of our shared history of handiwork with this appeal for embracing continuity and belonging in a time of destabilizing change.

Sensing a need to preserve the crafts and stories of our founding communities, and inspired by an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute featuring Yves St. Laurent’s “sardine” dress, Deming turned to the industries of her ancestors, both the dressmakers and designers in Manhattan in the nineteenth century and the fishermen on Grand Manan Island, a community of 2,500 residents, where the dignity of work and the bounty of the sea ruled for hundreds of years.

Reweaving the fabric of those lives, A Woven World gives presence on the page to the people, places, and practices, uncovering and preserving a record of the ingenuity and dignity that comes with such work. In this way the lament becomes a song of praise and a testament to the beauty and fragility of human making.

Stairway to Heaven

Penguin Books |
Poetry

In her fifth book of poems, Stairway to Heaven, Alison Hawthorne Deming explores dimensions of grief and renewal after losing her brother and mother. Grounded in her communion with nature and place, she finds even in Death Valley, that most stark of landscapes, a spirit of inventiveness that animates the ground we walk on. From the cave art of Chauvet to the futuristic habitat of Biosphere 2, that inventiveness becomes consolation for losses in family and nature, a means to build again a sense of self and world in the face of devastating loss.

Zoologies

Milkweed Editions |
Nonfiction

In this collection of linked essays, Alison Hawthorne Deming asks, and seeks to answer: what does the disappearance of animals mean for human imagination and existence? Moving from mammoth hunts to dying house cats, she explores profound questions about what it means to be animal. What is inherent in animals that leads us to destroy, and what that leads us toward peace? As human animals, how does art both define us as a species and how does it emerge primarily from our relationship with other species?

The reader emerges with a transformed sense of how the living world around us has defined and continues to define us in a powerful way.

Rope

Penguin Books |
Poetry

Alison Hawthorne Deming ’s fourth collection of poems follows the paths of imagination into meditations on salt, love, Hurricane Katrina, Greek myth, and the search for extraterrestrial life, all linked by the poet’s faith in art as an instrument for creating meaning, beauty, and continuity—virtues diminished by the velocity and violence of our historical moment. The final long poem “The Flight,” inspired by the works of A. R. Ammons, is a twenty-first century epic poised on the verge of our discovering life beyond Earth.

Writing the Sacred into the Real

Milkweed Editions |
Memoir

Descended from the great American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, Alison Deming appropriately begins this philosophical autobiography along the shores of the North Atlantic — on Grand Manan Island, in the Bay of Fundy. Moving on to Provincetown, Massachusetts, and then to Tucson, Arizona, and Paomoho, Hawaii, Deming describes places that are dear to her because their ways are still shaped by terms nature has set, though less and less so.

With vivid ideas and passion, Deming writes about the importance of nature writing for these peripatetic times. Because people’s lives are materially less connected to the natural world, they are also spiritually less connected. Through the arts — through the story of the captain whose boat honors the Kwakiutl Wild Woman of the Woods or the fisherman who sacrifices his catch to save two whales — people fall again into harmony with place and each other; they write the sacred into the real.

The Monarchs: A Poem Sequence

Louisiana State University Press |
Poetry

The Monarchs, a sixty-poem sequence, embodies both the strength and fragility of the natural world.  Inspired by the migration of the monarch butterfly, this extraordinary work is an extended meditation on intelligence in nature—human and otherwise—and the often troubled relationship our species has with itself and others.  In seven poems titled “Essays on Intelligence” Deming explicitly contrasts the knowledge of animals, inherent in their genes and neurons, to the complexity of the human nervous system and our fumbling attempts to understand.  A sense of order seems to govern other lives in nature, but humans, having become aware of the tremendous wounds they have inflicted on themselves and other species, doubt any such pattern exists in their own lives. Deming seeks to create harmony out of increasing chaos.  Deeply thought and felt, The Monarchs is an unusual and important work, bound to inspire wonder and awaken consciousness.

Hunting for Herring: A Celebration of Traditional Fisheries in the Canadian Maritimes and Beyond

Creating the Future: New Relationships Between Art and Science in the Era of Climate Change

Field Work: Aligning Poetry and Science

Coming Home to Earth

American Nature Writing: From Witness to Advocacy to Justice

Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy

Animal Art and the Changing Meanings of the Wild

Writing the Power of Place: Nonfiction Workshop

This workshop will focus on place as a spur to the art of essay and memoir writing. Place can be defined in personal, natural, and cultural contexts: your childhood home, your bioregion, the Appalachian Trail, Wounded Knee, Ferguson, the Galapagos Islands. We will use our environment as a laboratory for building skills in observation and writing. And we will invite other places that have meaning to us to create context. Our time will be spent reading model essays, following writing prompts, and discussing works-in-progress. I welcome essay, memoir, lyric, or hybrid forms.

2017 Regents’ Professor Alison Hawthorne Deming

Encountering the Animal: Lecture and Reading by Alison Hawthorne Deming

DEAR AMERICA VIRTUAL TOWN HALL – April

U of Idaho MFA Nonfiction Craft Talk: Alison Hawthorne Deming

Poetry reading at Unity College by Alison Hawthorne Deming and Elizabeth Bradfield

U of Idaho MFA Nonfiction Reading: Alison Hawthorne Deming

Alison’s Recent Work

Alison’s Upcoming Events

Alison’s Blog

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Academy of American Poets – First Book Award
Pablo Neruda Prize
Guggenheim Fellow
National Endowment of the Arts Fellow
Guggenheim Fellowship 2015-16 for essay collection “Lament for the Makers”
“Spotted Hyena” essay selected for Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015 (editor Rebecca Skloot)
Residency, The Hermitage Artist’s retreat, Englewood, FL, 2014 & 2015
“The Rabbit on Mars” essay selected for Best American Science and Nature Writing 2007 (editor Richard Preston)
Residency, H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest (2006)
Residency Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, Otis, Oregon (2003)
Residency, Mesa Refuge (2002)
Winter Residency, Djerassi Resident Artists Program (2001 and 2005)

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