Blood Desert: Witnesses 1820-1880
by Renny Golden
University of New Mexico Press

"Wind and sand cover the histories of saints and sinners."

In a sacred blend of poetry and untapped history, writer Renny Golden presents a beautiful portrait of turbulent nineteenth century New Mexico, revealed through the forgotten voices of those who witnessed this pioneering era. In Blood Desert, Golden artfully brings to life the heart and spirit of wartime generals, indigenous leaders, clerics and nuns, outlaws, and adventurers. The poet uses an engaging format of lyrical narratives and first person monologues, and often includes quotes retrieved from recorded speech and select diaries of the individuals. While Golden initially provides a brief 1800s timeline to familiarize readers with primary historic events, her talents clearly shine in her poetic transformations. Though each poem is self-contained, collectively these passages form an engaging story, propelled ahead within a richly detailed desert landscape that frames the conflicts, compassions, and struggles of the time.

As a brilliant poet, academic, and activist, Golden's eloquent phrasing and passionate historic revelations have undoubtedly filtered through her own experiences in war torn environments. Hers is a journal of spirit that comes through with an authentic voice.

When Golden writes "Safe on Forest Rock, soaring in clouds, great mother turtle carrying a nation on her shell," in context it is a solemn declaration of the enemy thwarted. Appropriately, it appears reflective of the dreamscape cover art that graces Golden’s work. The terrapin painting by Meinrad Craighead that draws us to a crimson splash of flowers and fruit seeds, seems equally symbolic of the heart and blood revealed at the center of Golden's writing and subject matter. Blood Desert is a book meant to be savored, and with each new reading, its idylls accentuate the beauty in history.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Return to USR Home