Robert Sund Taos Mountain

ISBN 13: 9780978690502

Taos Mountain

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9780978690502: Taos Mountain
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Poetry. Literary Nonfiction. Art. Edited by Glenn Hughes and Tim McNulty. Afterword by Glenn Hughes. After growing up in the Pacific Northwest, poet and painter Robert Sund was moved and altered by his encounter with the Southwest. He lived in Taos, New Mexico, and filled page after page with notes, poems, prose, and gorgeous paintings. This book is a limited edition which demonstrates Sund's virtuosity and versatility.

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About the Author:

Poet and painter Robert Sund (1929-2001) grew up on a small farm in Washington's Chehalis Valley and studied with poet Theordore Roethke at the University of Washington. His poetry reflects a deep, lifelong engagement with landscape and community. He is author of Poems from Ish River Country, Collected Poetry and Translations, and Notes from Disappearing Lake.

Review:

Early in the spring of 1991, Robert Sund spent a rare three months away from his damp, sea-level homeland in western Washington State. He boarded in a farmhouse with friends at the edge of Taos, 7000 feet up in the highlands of northern New Mexico, where he soaked up the landscape and native traditions that surround that ancient pueblo. Most nights he wrote poems and created haunting paintings that echo the designs of traditional Puebloan blankets. In early June when he headed back to his garden on a hilltop overlooking Puget Sound (Sund called it the Salish Sea), he brought gourd and blue corn seeds along with his Taos manuscript: 371 loose sheets of plain paper containing in Robert s casual calligraphic handwriting long and short verse sequences, letters to friends (sent or unsent), journal entries, stories and jottings....; (Afterword, Glenn Hughes). ... Taos Mountain contains potent and moving poems, certainly. Yet, for me, the book entrances especially as a whole, as an intricate and integrated response to place. Sund arrives as a stranger and engages a new landscape, working to make sense of a place very different from his damp Salish homeland. He brings himself and his interests fully to the task: friendships, calligraphy, art, meditation, poetry, Buddhism and, especially, his love of landscape and its essential occupants. Being displaced, even willingly, is unsettling. Sund s initial reaction seems to reflect this uprooting: Too many are landless, in the midst vast stretches of land. Too many have left the land they had. Not only the homeless are homeless. (Speaking From a Place) But there is also the joy of discovery, and Taos Mountain is filled with that. The mountain seems in its profile from here in town like figures lying around a fire. When you turn away you can tell one of them stood up and stretched and sat down again. Her skirts, her blanket made quick little winds sweeping through the ponderosa. (Taos Mountain) Sund stays up nights writing at a table in his host s home, goes with his friends to ceremonies at the pueblo, to hot springs in a snow storm, to Santa Fe where the setting sun is lighting a cathedral window. He experiences the new particulars of this place, moving from assumed generalities to specifics: I have been watching these two horses for a week. Every day they become more real. (Two Horses) He watches, dreams, meditates, writes, paints and cogitates. His painting informs his poetry, his poetry informs his paintings: For me poetry and painting are not separate. My best landscapes are in the poems. My best ideas are in the paintings.... To bring poetry and painting close together, that is my work. (from the Foreword) The idea of weaving becomes an important metaphor for the way Sund integrates the discoveries he is making through various means of inquiry, and this historical note seems germane: Weaving in the American Southwest began more than 1000 years ago with the Anasazi.... Until the introduction of cotton, these ancestors of the Pueblo Indians used human and animal hair, fur, and native plants in their non-loom weavings. (Southwest Textiles: Pueblo and Navajo Traditions: St Louis Art Museum) Taos Mountain integrates experience and place: poem, song, prose and painting; black ink calligraphy and color plates; waking experience and dreams that reinterpret experience; and the speculations/ realizations that come as a result of mulling all this over and over. Yet, despite the experiences and realizations, much of Taos Mountain remains mysterious. Sund (and we) continues to wonder: What motivates art? What is the relationship between the artists of a place and the other inhabitants of the land? --Bill Yake, Pedestal Magazine

When Sund died, a little more than 10 years later, he left a giant manuscript of largely unedited material from his time at Taos 371 loose sheets of plain paper filled with his beautiful calligraphic scrawl in ink, mixed with drawings. He had talked to Chip Hughes about them editing the manuscript down together to publishable size, but when he sickened he asked Hughes to do it for him. I mean, that is trust. (It is also a kind of irresponsible desperation.) Sund's method was to compose carefully, look the pages over the next day or so, put them aside, then move on to something new and fresh. So the editing down together never took place. He and Editor Hughes had joked about the Ezra Pound/Robert Frost idea of poets working in collaboration squeezing the water out of each other's work. Having to do the work alone, without consultation with the poet, was a tremendous and time-consuming job. Taos Mountain is the result, and we are the fortunate beneficiaries. Hopefully there may be enough material left for a third book, but I doubt it. We buffs will have to wait and see. * * * In Taos Mountain, the reader is free to find his favorite poems and each reader's selection will be a different one. And the same reader, in a different time, on a fresh rereading, may be surprised to find that he likes poems he skipped over the first time better than the ones he settled on as favorites the first time through. I know that I did. * * * The weavers of ceremonial blankets greatly affected Sund, and he produced a number of paintings in gouache on hand-made paper, some of it made by Hughes, who writes Kingfisher, Indeed, five or six of the paintings were done on the wonderful handmade Abaca paper I was making at the time in San Antonio, that I sent a batch of to Robert in Taos and that he loved, as it took the water-based paint extremely well--not too surfacey and not too soakingly, with the colors standing out well. The paintings seem to the editor to be much alike, but each is oddly different. The paintings Sund displayed at the Taos fair and gave to his hosts are among the best. Hughes owns Cedar Mist, and gave Kingfisher permission to publish it so that others may enjoy it. It actually was painted before Sund left the Pacific Northwest, about 1988, but is predictive, according to Hughes, of the work he did in New Mexico. Another good one is Prayer for Blue Corn, which he gave to Host Greeno and his family, along with several others, in gratitude for housing and feeding him. This was Sund's Way. --Robert Arnold, Kingfisher Journal

The poem, This Ink Bottle, is part of Sund s book Taos Mountain (2007, Poet s House Press, Anacortes, Wash., $60 hardcover), the late poet s final statement about his time here. It is a book of reverence, a book about time spent writing poetry and essays and of painting in Taos as the guest of Arthur and Ginny Greeno, former owners of the Apple Tree Restaurant. He visited them for the last time in the spring of 1991, staying at their home on Valverde Street in a room where he considered the most important piece of furniture to be a table where he worked. This is the table I keep, wrote Sund. This is my warm spot in the world. From the west window of his room he could see horses and fields and birds, but looking through another window, the north window, he received his greatest inspiration. From there he looked at Taos Mountain, which became his frequent muse: Taos Mountain had things to say, and I felt welcome. Night after night and day after day poems emerged often as if out of the place and not out of myself. The book is edited by Glenn Hughes from a sizable manuscript Sund produced during his three-month stay in Taos. Sund was not afraid to delve into issues of cul¬ture while he was here. In an essay called Santa Fé, he addressed the conquest and wrote of Spanish fathers in the new land, bringing the light of the Lord into the deserts ... as though there had been no light here before them. And he summarizes, in light of dispelled ignorance about native cultures that have become part of a growing clarity and new-found perspective it is hard not to feel most grief for the native people, and what has for them been an ongoing loss. And a loss of opportunity for us. Time lost where an understanding might have deepened for the last two hundred years. In Part Two of the book, he writes about weaving and painting, and his art is displayed. He said, For me poetry and painting are not separate ... to bring poetry and painting close together, that is my work. However, the paintings don t live up to the poems. Called painted blankets or spirit blankets, they are monolithic color studies (depicted on the book jacket), done in tall, rectangular format in combinations of complimentary and triadic colors. Most of them are the same basic design, horizontal color bars done as a blanket pattern. Only a few stand out. One called Cedar Mist is two bars of burnt sienna on a contrasting field of green set on a charcoal gray background. Another, Red Earth Blanket, is bars of red and orange alternated with strips of blue on a field of earthy brown. The others, due to the artist s choice of color or due to problems with reproduction in printing, appear tinted with darkness as if the artist mixed his palette, then added black to each color. But Sund delighted in showing his paintings while he was here saying, I was able to throw my stick on the fire of the Taos Spring Arts Festival. On balance, Sund s poetry is his signature: Clean, crisp, clear. In one poem called simply Taos, he writes: How loving the forest/How provident the mountain/The sight of the two together gladdens the world/New courage rises/And extravagant hope casts long deep shadows. Taos Mountain is a worthy addition to the collector s canon of regional works --Sam Richardson, Taos News Review

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