Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs (1992), a collection of essays, is the last book Wallace Stegner published in a long and productive life of thinking and writing about the West. In the Introduction to the book, Stegner writes that “the West at large is hope’s native home, the youngest and freshest of America’s regions, magnificently endowed and with the chance to become something unprecedented and unmatched in the world”.
These are inspiring and hopeful words for a man in his 80s, and in darker moods in the same book, when contemplating, for example, the desperate foolishness of water policy west of the hundredth meridian, Stegner repudiates them, saying of the West that “neither nostalgia nor boosterism can any longer make a case for it as the geography of hope”. The phrase “the geography of hope” is also Stegner’s coinage, and when he says he can no longer make a case for the American West as its native home, he is arguing with himself, against himself, over the crucial tensions out of which he made his life’s work.
In the end, however, despite considerable pessimism about our historical, cultural, and political blunders, Stegner did think that people could come to belong to the land where they lived, rather than merely owning it, even a land as harsh as the West. The vitality of his history and criticism, and the force of his fiction and teaching about it, are testimony to an entire life spent in devotion to that idea.
…The West is a big place, and this is a rich book. Humor, love, nature, politics, and magic nestle within its lines, along with sadness, anger, regret, and grief. Yet even in confrontations with the darker side of things these poets are still speaking from young country, describing lives which call out for words. Like all poets, they are imagining ways to live, which has to mean living in a given place, and therefore with each other. Further, although what brings them together in this anthology is a regional fact, I think all of them aspire to put the best possible words in the best possible order, connecting this region to far more than itself. Simply by focusing human attention, putting pen to paper, and then sending their verses out into this place and the wider world, they fulfill a small part of Stegner’s vision of the West as a geography of hope, coming home to places they’ve never been before.
“Because of the Western Slope’s topography, the region has been settled later than other parts of the country and state, and as a result, is still finding its cultural voice…There is the possibility to create something new. And this possibility of creation, constructing a unique and expansive identity, is the hope in The Geography of Hope.”—David Buck, Glenwood Post
“Whatever your taste in poetry you are sure to find something that speaks to you in this volume. Humor, regret, nature, politics, love and a dash of magic are all represented in light and darkness. The diversity of the poetry is wonderful. That is speaks to us through the common ground of Western Slope writers is both moving and significant.”—Mike Nobles, Montrose Morning Sun
“…All the poets share a common thread—a reverence for the land, a deep love for the high deserts and higher mountains we live upon in western Colorado. And through this reverence, they further our understanding of the soil and rock under our feet.”—John Nizalowski, Telluride Times-Journal
“This book of poetry…is an expression of the kind of hope and humor that is still possible in the American West.”—Phaedra Greenwood, The Taos News
“The Geography of Hope…is tied together by love for a place—the West—which, paradoxically, is known for its rootlessness and lack of connections… [It is] a pleasure to look at and to hold.”—Lynda La Rocca, Colorado Central Magazine
“The book defines the place and the place defines the poets. Good stuff.” —Suzanne Cheavens, Mountainfreak
“I like sampling this wonderful anthology in little bites, savoring one poem at a time.”—Suzanne Cheavens, Mountainfreak
“There is a cohesion in the anthology despite the diversity, and it is truly delectable to the senses. The poems are fraught with beauty, delightful imagery, politics, nature complexity and fury.”—Mitzi-Jill Rapkin, Crested Butte Chronicle & Pilot
“Destined to become a classic…”—Mike Nobles, Inside/Outside Southwest Magazinebooks, poetry, Rothman