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“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 was born and grew up in Connecticut, where she was steeped in both literary and naturalist traditions. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship to support the research and writing of her most recent nonfiction book, A Woven World: On Fashion, Fishermen, and the Sardine Dress, published by Counterpoint Press in 2021. Her most recent poetry books are Stairway to Heaven (Penguin 2016) and Death Valley: Painted Light, a collaboration with photographer Stephen Strom. The essay collection Zoologies: On Animals and the Human Spirit was published by Milkweed Editions in 2014.

She is the author of Science and Other Poems (LSU Press, 1994), selected by Gerald Stern for the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets; The Monarchs: A Poem Sequence (LSU, 1997), Genius Loci (Penguin Poets, 2005), and Rope (Penguin Poets, 2009); and three additional nonfiction books, Temporary Homelands (Mercury House, 1994; Picador USA, 1996), The Edges of the Civilized World (Picador USA, 1998), finalist for the PEN Center West Award, and Writing the Sacred Into the Real (Milkweed, Credo Series). She edited Poetry of the American West: A Columbia Anthology (Columbia University Press, 1996) and co-edited with Lauret E. Savoy The Colors of Nature: Essays on Culture, Identity, and the Natural World (Milkweed, 2002; revised and expanded edition, 2011).

Deming’s work centers on the relationship between nature and culture, art and science. She received an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, 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, and the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Her work has been awarded the Pablo Neruda Prize from Nimrod, Pushcart Prize, Gertrude B. Claytor Award from the Poetry Society of America, Best Essay Gold Award from the GAMMA Southeastern Magazine Association, and Bayer Award in Science Writing from Creative Nonfiction for the essay “Poetry and Science: A View from the Divide.” She chaired the Pulitzer Prize Poetry Jury for 2018.

She has held residencies at Yaddo, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Mesa Refuge, Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, Vermont Studio Center, The Hermitage Artist Retreat, and the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon. She has taught at the Prague Summer Program, Kachemak Bay Writers Conference, Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference, Fine Arts Work Center, University of Montana’s Environmental Writing Institute, and the Bread Loaf Environmental Writing Workshop, among many other venues.

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. She served as poet-in-residence for the Milwaukee Public Museum and Milwaukee Public Library in the Poets House “Field Work” project bringing together science and poetry. Her writing has been widely published and anthologized, including in The Norton Book of Nature Writing, and twice in Best American Science and Nature Writing. Former Director of the University of Arizona Poetry Center and former Agnese Nelms Haury Chair in Environment and Social Justice, she is Regents Professor Emerita at the University of Arizona. She lives in Tucson, Arizona and Grand Manan, New Brunswick, Canada.

Alison’s Authors Unbound Profile: 

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.

Authors Unbound

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

Inspired by an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, A Woven World is a song of praise to the beauty and fragility of human making and to the makers who mend the fabric of life whenever it frays.

Authors Unbound

Zoologies: On Animals and the Human Spirit

Since the dawn of civilization animals have offered companionship, sustenance, and inspiration to people. What do animals mean to us now in the sixth great extinction?

Authors Unbound

Hunting for Herring: A Celebration of the “Silver Darlings” and Traditional Fisheries of the North Atlantic

Authors Unbound

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

Authors Unbound

Mobius: A Meditation on Art and Science

A celebration of these complementary ways of knowing

Authors Unbound

Ecopoetics: Roots and Branches of the Poetry of Earth Witness

How poetry bears witness to our intimacy with nature

Authors Unbound

Ecology and Justice

Everything is connected: environmentalism and social justice as one cause

Authors Unbound

Animal Art and the Changing Meanings of the Wild

Authors Unbound

Workshops in Poetry, Creative Nonfiction, and the Art of Scientific Storytelling

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

Guggenheim Fellow
Academy of American Poets – First Book Award
Pablo Neruda Prize
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)

Media Kit

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