After the New Mexico fires — a well of sorrow and hope

August 16, 2023
Up from ashes we rise

Up From the Ashes we Rise: A Collection of Prose and Poetry
Edited by David Rogers
Cover image by Pola Lopez
Foreword by Elmo Baca
Las Vegas Lit Press, 2023
US$14.00 (A$21.70)
Available from Las Vegas Lit Press: , email:

This poetry and prose anthology book was conceived in the wake of New Mexico’s worst natural disaster in written history — a fire and flood that devastated vast areas of San Miguel and Mora counties in northeastern New Mexico last year.

While the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon wildfire consumed more than 300,000 acres (121,406 hectares) of forest land and some 900 structures, for many it also reduced to ashes a way of life that had lasted for hundreds of years, since the region was on the northern edge of the Spanish Empire in the Americas.

Up from the Ashes: We Rise embodies the deep sense of loss many are feeling in the aftermath of this tragedy, and an equally vital sense of resolute belief in our ability to rise again, as individuals and as a community. The works of nearly forty writers are offered to readers in this collection. Most, but not all, are personal reactions to and reflections on their experiences at the time of the fire.

Among the authors in this collection are Las Vegas, New Mexico Poet Laureate Kayt C Peck, Carmen Baca, Kathamann, Scott Wiggerman, Deborah Coy, Bill Nevins (myself) and many others. Each piece is a treasure. Here is one selection:

The Measure

           Treasure is that which

           remains when everything else

            has burned to ashes.

                        — Sharon Vander Meer (p117)

Another stunning, multi-layered contribution to this anthology is the set of two poems by Amy Kaplan: “Fireweed” and “Tourism, A Clean Industry”. These pieces combine very personal relationship anguish and recovery with the experience of survival of an environmental disaster happening in a place of tourist-attracting beauty, now devastated.  Irony, wit and a fierceness blend with a direct, spare eloquence of language.

There are so many more fine selections in this book, very worthy of close reading and review. One hopes it will be widely distributed and read, both in New Mexico and beyond.

The book serves as a well of sorrow and hope, filled by the writers and available to us all to drink deeply from its healing words and reflect on our own “Up from the Ashes” moments as we too rise again. Highly recommended.

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