A river runs through it

Grand Canyon bards convene for evening of homage

by Joy Martin

If your heart starts aflutterin’ at the mere mention of the Grand Canyon, then mark your calendars for 6:30 p.m. July 19 at the Crow’s Closet, where local canyonophiles gather to hear tales from the two latest tomes revolving around this timeless source of inspiration.

Just the Facts
What: “Beneath the Rim,” a collection of Grand Canyon poetry
When: 6:30 p.m., Tues., July 19
Where: Crow’s Closet, 750 Main Ave.

The event, aptly titled “Beneath the Rim,” is sponsored by Maria’s Bookshop and Backcountry Experience and showcases two editors and their most recent publications in an evening saturated with good storytelling and photos, complemented by a Q&A and book-signing. 

Featured presenters include geologist-cum-poet, Danny Rosen, co-editor of Going Down Grand: Poems from the Canyon.* This collection of poems by 61 writers ranges from Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Carl Sandberg to early-canyon-settler William Wallace Bass to Tewa-Hopi elder, Albert Yava. No discrimination here between camera-toting rim-walkers and rowdy river-runners in Rosen’s tightly-knit cache of panegyrics, paeons, paradox, poesy, personification and prose. 

Accompanying him is co-editor of Going Down Grand and editor and writer Rick Kempa, who introduces On Foot: Grand Canyon Backpacking Stories,* a carefully crafted selection of 27 contemporary writers and their accounts of the ever-magnetic, mile-deep chasm through passages, problems, immersions, pursuits and encounters – each the theme of an On Foot section.  

“Freedom, possibilities, accomplishment, relationships. .. are among the reasons I return to the canyon,” writes Nic Korte in his On Foot essay, “Freedom and Risk.” “But when I consider further what brings me back, my answer is...time. Doesn’t everyone talk about time as a reason to return?”  

Deep time, in particular, is what Korte refers to. 

“A hint of realization of millions of years,” he continues. “I sense the vast age of the Earth and the brevity of my own life span. I wish everyone on Earth could place their hands on that gap of time. Could we then gaze at one another with compassion for our brief and often difficult lives and recognize that we do, indeed, all of us, belong to the same family of man?”

Not all On Foot anecdotes are so ethereal, as some approach the world wonder with logical motives. 

In “Fifty Mile: A Search for Ancient Tracks,” Scott Thybony sets out to locate fossil tracksites. For his National Geographic Society-sponsored sojourn, Thybony sought the wisdom of GC-backcountry expert Harvey Butchart, who recommended the troupe explore the shortest rim-to-rim route by way of Eminence Break to Boundary Ridge. 

But even on this most scientific endeavor, Thybony can’t help but scribble about the encroaching twilight: “The canyon grows deeper, older in the fading light. And as night comes, the color lifts from the bottom of the gorge, leaving darkness in its wake.” 

Moving from the intellectual and into the playful, 30-year-old On Foot contributor Molly McCormick finds that “each day on the trail in the Grand Canyon is a multi-faceted sensory carnival. This ride of adventure is the root of my love affair with the Grand Canyon.” 

Perhaps McCormick would agree that the punctuation mark at the end of any canyon adventure is the esteemed Cold One, an ode to which is encapsulated best by Kempa himself in “Claim Your Due: A Backpacker’s View of River-Runners.” 

“Over the decades, on beachfronts from the Confluence to Elves Chasm, I have garnered Heineken and Hamm’s, Killian’s Red and Coors Light, Polygamy Porter and PBR. Each, I swear, has been the best beer of my life, the memory of which, like old lovers, I will carry to my grave.”  

So whether the ruddy waters of the Colorado run like blood in your veins or you find God and Woody Guthrie in the Grand Canyon at sundown, come to commiserate and celebrate the dangers, discoveries, dust, and downright deepness of the world’s greatest geologic storybook that calls upon each of us for many a raison d’être. 

*A finalist for the 2015 Arizona Book Awards, On Foot is published by Vishnu Temple Press of Flagstaff, while Going Down Grand is published by Fruita-based Lithic Press and is a finalist for a 2016 Colorado Book Award.