The following is a report of a podcast by KCRW’s Michael Silverblatt.  I chose to report on his interview with Leslie Marmon Silko, in which she discusses her latest book, Turquoise Ledge.  Silko previously authored one of my favorite books, Ceremony, a novel about an American Indian veteran returning to his home and suffering post-traumatic stress, and his journey to healing and wellness through the ceremonies of his people.

Leslie Marmon Silko, a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, takes the stories told to her by the elders and weaves them into beautiful works of art.  For Turquoise Ledge, her first book in a decade, Silko created a memoir of Native American storytelling and a close connection to the natural world.  KCRW’s Michael Silverblatt described her books as written with “extraordinary sensuality of landscape” fused with darkness.

As a young writer she was inspired by poet James Wright, but for this book, she looked to Emily Dickinson.  During the writing of Turquoise Ledge, Silko read Dickinson’s poems every night until she fell asleep. One day she realized why she had gravitated to Dickinson.  Dickinson didn’t like to go out into the world, as she was happiest at home in her garden, with her bees.  Similarly, Silko enjoys her home in the southwest desert, taking walks in nature, available for the lessons of the animals and the insects.

The metaphor in Turquoise Ledge lies in her story about what she saw after taking daily walks along the same trail. One day, Silko saw bits of turquoise where no turquoise was before.  Silko said it is important to take the walk that goes nowhere, with no intention, allowing nature to speak to our eyes.

The last gift Silko has given me as a new writer is to infuse my writing with those aspects of nature that speak to me; to include the landscape and sensory experiences that permeate my walk through the world into my written pages.


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