On August 18, 2018, the book-loving community of Silver City, New Mexico, came together to listen to Philip Connors, Sharman Apt Russell, Beate Sigriddaughter and Jack Crocker reading recent work.
The event was entitled “Reading Under the Stars” and a few duly came out and lit up the sky although the brightest stars were the four readers.
Sharman opened by reading from her forthcoming book about hunger in Malawi; she was followed by Beate, who read a recent nature poem; Jack read some works-in-progress as well as some poems from his collection The Last Resort; and Phil closed proceedings by reading from his newly published book A Song for the River.
There was a clear theme running through their work: care. Care for all living things: people, animals, even (or perhaps especially) water, because without it the ecosystem goes haywire.
The readers are all current or past residents of Silver City (Phil recently moved to El Paso), although none hails from here. Beate comes from furthest afield, being of German origin. She and Jack are Silver City’s Poets Laureate. In April 2017, the selection committee couldn’t decide which of them was the better candidate, so we asked them to job-share. They are a perfect team: grey-bearded eminence with a twinkle in his eye – that’s Jack, in case you hadn’t guessed – and a gifted, deeply committed, write-every-day-and-publish-every-week, poetry advocate in Beate.
Phil is known primarily for his multi-award-winning debut Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout. That’s about to change. A Song for the River is a masterly work. It’s an elegy, a memoir, a paean to a mountain and a stretch of water, and a crie de coeur. Above all, it’s beautifully written. Those who attended “Reading Under the Stars” are the first buyers of this superb book. Lucky us.
Sharman has been publishing for decades and in all kinds of genres: memoir, essays, novels, YA novels, and nature writing. She’s a modern marvel with a prose style as smooth as a dinosaur egg. Sharman inspires because she’s so engaged with the world, and once again she delivered a brilliant reading. Her new book comes out in 2020. It’ll be worth the wait.