Continuing our series on EcoLit Success Stories, I’m pleased to introduce Marybeth Holleman. Based out of Alaska, she is author of The Heart of the Sound (which was a Siskiyou Prize finalist) and co-author of Among Wolves.
Marybeth Holleman is author of The Heart of the Sound: An Alaskan Paradise Found and Nearly Lost, co-author of Among Wolves: Gordon Haber’s Insights into Alaska’s Most Misunderstood Animal, and co-editor of Crosscurrents North: Alaskans on the Environment. She also has recently published essays in poems in ISLE and Minding Nature (links to follow).
What websites/journals/mags do you regularly read to keep up on environmental arts and news?
Ecolit Books blog is a favorite. The book reviews, notices of events and conferences, and overall insights make it one of the few blogs I read regularly. Minding Nature is a great blog and magazine. Other nature writing journals: Canary, The Hopper, Split Rock. ASLE’s journal, ISLE, is another—even the scholarly articles hold surprising insights and information. I also read a few magazines for natural history/science news, most regularly Natural History, Scientific American, Union of Concerned Scientists magazine, and Audubon Magazine. And I find The Revelator, a weekly digest of environmental news, to be an excellent source.
I’ve appreciated the dedication and focus of the Center for Biological Diversity for a long time, and this weekly digest is no exception. Wilderness Watch newsletters are also informative and thought-provoking. Finally, though I don’t frequent facebook, a few groups there are great resources, among them ASLE Creative Caucus, and Artists and Climate Change.
What is your favorite environmental book and/or author?
I don’t have one. That is, I don’t have just one. In the beginning, when I was studying to be a scientist, the twin pillars of Rachel Carson and Edward Abbey woke me. The Monkeywrench Gang and Silent Spring. Since, it’s been a gorgeously winding pathway. I remain a big fan of Annie Dillard’s, in particular For the Time Being. And Susan Griffin, Women and Nature and The Eros of Everyday Life. But there’s so many, including some from Ashland Creek Press—fearless poets like Gretchen Primack, and No Word for Wilderness, and The Dragon Keeper. I have a bookshelf with all my muses, my favorites over the years.
Here’s some of the titles, in no particular order: Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams, The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen, Spillville by Patricia Hempl, The Great Work by Thomas Berry, The Immense Journey by Loren Eiseley, Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, and The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Erlich. Oh, and every single poem Mary Oliver ever wrote. In fact, I read one of her poems every morning. It’s a good way to start the day.
What are you working on now?
I have several irons in the fire. I’ve got a few essays underway, related to climate change and wildlife, and some of the unprecedented climate-caused changes occuring in my favorite wild places. Poetry—I follow William Stafford’s model of writing a poem every day, mostly as writing exercise. I am also sending out more of my poetry, and have a manuscript, tender gravity, forthcoming from Red Hen Press. And I’ve completed a novel which was inspired by a polar bear and by conversations with women friends who are, like me, in their “second spring,” and looking for ways to meaningfully engage with the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
So my work runs the gamut, where I zoom in on the particular, like that particular polar bear, or the black bear hunt proposed in Anchorage, and then wide-angle to the big stuff, like how climate change is taking out all the polar bears, and the ice, and innumerable others—out of sight of most of us but no less heart-wrenching.
Anything you’d like to add?
I just want to mention how great Ecolit’s “Literary Outlets for Environmental Writing” has been for me. I’ve sent poems and essays, even excerpts from The Heart of the Sound, to publications on that list, such as the beautiful online journal Canary, and have been thrilled to have my work reach new audiences, some outside of the U.S., in such places as the U.K.-based zoomorphic and the Canadian journal The Goose. Likewise, I’m thrilled to find new journals there, in particular Deep Wild Journal, who published one of my poems in their inaugural issue last summer.
I also want to emphasize how important Ashland Creek Press is: I’m so glad they exist. This is true especially right now, not just in the confusing and difficult world of publishing, but also, and more importantly, in the dire mess we humans have made on this one beautiful home planet. We need the words and inspiration that presses like Ashland Creek bring more than ever.
I’ll never forget the first AWP panel in which I heard John Yunker speak, along with one of my favorite novelists, Ann Pancake, and now one of my favorite poets and all–around wonderful human being, Gretchen Primack. It remains one of the best panels I’ve ever experienced. Powerful, insightful, compassionate, and important.
Check out Marybeth’s recent writing here:
Three poems in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment published by Oxford University Press.
The essay, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Wilderness,” in Minding Nature (https://www.humansandnature.org/what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-wilderness)
The essay, “Writer as Activist, Activist as Writer,” in The Goose.
The essay, “Other Nations,” in Writing For Animals.
Author of the novels The Tourist Trail and Where Oceans Hide Their Dead. Co-founder of Ashland Creek Press and editor of Writing for Animals (also now a writing program).