"Sheltering the Creative Spirit"
Taos, New Mexico USA
List of Past Residents and their letters
BEHLEN -- Texas, Poet
BARBARA “JAMILA” FITZGERALD -- Africa, Artist
DAVID JONGEWARD -- Canada, Writer
ANDREA LANNEN -- New York, Artist
KIT LYNCH -- Illinois, Artist
T0M MEYERS -- Texas, Doctoral Candidate
HUGH OGDEN -- Connecticut, Poet
LYNN STENZEL -- Colorado, Artist
Carrie Fountain - Texas, poet, teacher and theater
Jim Ciletti - Colorado Springs, poet, writer,
by Hugh Ogden
The monsoons had not yet
arrived in northern New Mexico and the early evening sky contained only a
cluster of clouds over Taos Sacred Mountain as I drove my rented car up Route
150 to Arroyo Seco. I was coming
for the first time to the Frank Waters Foundation.
I knew only that I had a cabin for a month, that it was close to Pueblo
land, and that I was arriving with the mishmash of a year’s teaching back in
Connecticut that needed to be sorted through and put aside to allow for new
poems. I knew only that
I was coming to a primeval valley enclosed on two sides by mountains and
facing out on
As I stood there on the cabin
porch after removing my word processor, printer, and one piece of luggage from
the car, I sensed the expansiveness and connection that was to be given me
through July. And the rhythms and
landscape that I would carry with me back East.
Upon my return, sweltering in a heat wave while remembering the rain and
coolness, the web of friendships that had unfolded in my month in Arroyo Seco,
my struggles with the clawed darkness of my psyche in the poems written there, I
fully realized the blessing of what I had been given: a month of solitude,
bell-clear morning skies, and afternoon and evening storms that brought water
and regeneration to the land and to me.
Arroyo Seco is a special place.
A whole mess of people from California and elsewhere have bought land and
built houses back from El Salto Road, where the Foundation is located, thereby
changing the textures and purity of underground streams. But a few working
ranches, pastures, and hay fields remain. When
the air is quiet, you can still hear the old cattle and buffalo sounds, mingled
with the snorting of horses, baying of donkeys, and screaming of peacocks. How fortunate that Barbara Waters has placed some of the
fifteen acres that her husband bought back in 1947 into a conservation easement.
And how visionary of her to have established this Foundation so that all
kinds of artists might come here to do their work and be nourished.
I, for one, left with a sheaf
of new poems about such things as firing pots in the old traditional ways of
pueblo life as well as inner poems I long had been carrying, about victimhood
and pain. I worked and wrote at an
old card table on the porch that looks down on an aspen-pole fence that stakes
and separates a neighbor’s house from the studio.
Afternoons I sometimes left to go to book stores and talks, or to meet
friends on the Reservation or in town.
But for the most part I stayed on Foundation property, where I learned
all the gullies in both the upper and lower pastures and marveled at the water
flow -- the Acequia Madre, running off of the Rio Lucero on Taos Indian land,
under El Salto Road, and even under the little Arroyo Seco creek all the way to
the middle of the mesa where it divides and nurtures Foundation land.
Yes, I love protected land like this.
I treasure water. And I’m
thankful that there’s a refuge called the Frank Waters Foundation at the foot
of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
The challenge now is to
complete more of their planned studios and to fund an adequate endowment that
will allow for yearly upkeep and administration. And quite a challenge it is.
If the blessings I received here are to be shared by others, and if Frank
Waters’ legacy and Barbara Waters’ faith and vision are to be honored,
support will have to be forthcoming from the Taos community as well as from
those committed to the arts all over the world. It’s a worthy challenge.
By meeting it, even in small ways, people will positively affect the
quality of life of those who follow us, besides sustaining that crucial sacred
spirit needed to make human culture and its relationship to earth more
As I write this, I think of the
Colorado granite boulder engraved with Frank’s words from The Man Who
Killed the Deer. I think of my
creative friends in Taos: Soge, Bernadette, Imogene, Nate, Skip, Liz, Sally,
John, Barbara, and so many others. But
most of all I think of how a Foundation such as this one in Arroyo Seco supports
our effort to make an art that touches and enriches people’s lives.
(Hugh Ogden has written
several books of poetry, including Natural
Things and Gift.)
"The Old Genesis"
by Hugh Ogden
On the first night
Day looked at Night and said
I have a job to do and Night
looked at Day and said,
I’ll do my share.
On the second night
the stars came out and gathered
around black holes and began
to dance and when they had finished
they threw lines to each other
that became stories.
On the third night
water caressed land with her palms
and land turned bowls to catch
what fell from the skies
and whatever land couldn’t catch
seeped through rocks into seasons.
On the fourth night
what’a full and what’s empty
struck a fierce streak from cloud to cloud
until Streak grew tired:
little pieces of light then swam
to the shore, to cliffs and mountains.
On the fifth night
birds discovered they could return home
by believing in stars
and the iron in their minds,
even when the sun wasn’t over their wings.
On the sixth night
deer and all the animals stopped grazing
and lay down in fields
and gave birth to their kind.
Two leggeds came out of the earth and entered
caves and lean-tos and sang songs to the children
emerging from their bodies.
On the seventh night
Day rested and looked at Night and said,
we seem different, we do different things
but everything we have done is one.
For Barbara On The Death of
Ginger, Her Horse
Earth, we gave you foot-paths
and walked singing beside the mountain.
We laughed together and in a wisp
of dream you lay the ground for tomorrow.
Barbara came and the morning
and she placed a wild iris
on the ear of Ginger who had returned
to you, the magpies cackling
and not yet plunging for her eyes.
She knelt and put her hand on Ginger’s
white forehead and you cradled
her body and she heard hoof-beats.
Frank Waters Foundation
Where Muses Lurk
Praise and thanks to the Frank Waters Foundation for creating a quiet,
beautiful space where artists can roll up their sleeves and wrestle with their
Being alone is hard.
Writing is hard. Waiting for the writing is hard.
It does not come to me as I imagine it comes to some: a vase of fresh cut
flowers set every morning on some substantial oak table.
Hide in the corner until the words come, I say.
Pounce, I say. Draw poems
like blood into vials. Sweat
through it. If one must suffer through one’s art, or at least suffer
through one’s self to produce the art, there is hardly a better place to do it
than at the Frank Waters Foundation in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico.
After my two months there, I returned to Austin with a rough draft of a
collection of poems tentatively titled Starting
First of all, and frankly, I
was naïve. I thought in the
mountains the world would vanish and the muses would descend: O little gold-tipped angels, O glorious poems.
The muses did not descend. I
thought my pettiness, my nervousness, my obsessions, would vanish.
No. They were there all day,
every day, even on the most beautiful days when the silence was so clear it was
glassy. Loneliness, too, was there.
The mountains caught fire, the silence was sometimes chilling, the season
was often hot, and the world was the world in the mountains as much as in the
city: people suffer, no matter
where you are. There was a radio; I
listened to it. People suffer and
others profit. The earth grows
sick, catches fire. There is no
escaping the world.
However, in the mountains there
was time. Time: the world’s purest commodity.
There was time to write, time to think, time to think about writing.
Read some, write some, think some, sleep.
Those were my days at the Frank Waters Foundation.
Eventually it became easier to be alone, eventually I felt my focus
return, sharpening daily a knife. The
mornings were full of light; the evening sky was packed with stars.
That Darned Cat came around sometimes and rubbed himself against my leg
and seemed satisfied. Afternoons in
August the rains arrived with thunder and the desert smelled like heaven.
There was a road for walking.
There was a beautiful studio with a big table for writing, and a high bed
for reading and sleeping. There was
a porch for sitting, looking, trying to be still and listen.
And there was Barbara! Barbara
Waters is the true gift of the Foundation.
Her presence is a calm one; her nature is generous, her spirit is
As for the day to day:
I wrote mostly mornings in July, mostly afternoons in August.
Sometimes I wrote at a coffee shop in town; sometimes I wrote late at
night on the porch in the silence and darkness, sipping wine.
Most days I put in about six hours of writing, four of them honest.
I read furiously. I finished many poems, started more than I figured I would.
I wrote a poem a day, every day, as soon as I woke up.
I grew to love El Salto Road, the D. H. Lawrence Ranch, Moby Dickens
Bookshop, the aspens, the sunsets, the sky.
I thank the Frank Waters
Foundation for such a generous opportunity.
and the room smells more and more
slowly rotten. Mornings they arrive
a unit, wait alongside the building and scream
profanity they can think of
each other’s faces. It is a great
bell rings and, silent, they file in:
O god I pray, O god
the single file line I pray. And
someone needs something
Carrie Fountain is completing a three-year masters program, the prestigious James A. Michener Fellowship for Creative Writing, at the University of Texas. Besides writing prize-winning poetry, she has been involved with teaching and the theater. She recently completed a manuscript of poems that may be titled Starting Small.
Project: My novel in progress Leaves of Glass, is a story of a young man in search of himself. Determined to find God, he enters a Jesuit novitiate.
Outer World: Although the outer world of the novel is based on the four years I spent in a Jesuit novitiate, my memory after forty years had slipped. Fortunately, my friend and fellow ex-Jesuit John Palenchar had sent me one hundred letters he wrote to his family on a weekly basis for two years of our novitiate. I was able to research and make a complete outline of the two year time line of the novel. Anchored in this time line are significant experiences of the hero. John’s letters had enough details about our daily activities to enable me to properly sequence the outer world of the character, which supports the inner journey.
Inner World: This was the most difficult challenge. I knew my own story and my own growth curve during the two years of novitiate. But I was not writing my story. I was using my knowledge and experience and that of several other ex-Jesuits to create a composite character. I wanted to create fiction, a novel, a universal “hero” story, not a biography.
How lucky, or serendipitous, was my trip to the Taos library. I had forgotten my copy of Volger’s book The Writer’s Journey, which describes the twelve steps a “hero” experiences on the hero’s journey. The Taos library had one, and right there a few books away was Pearson’s book The Hero Within on archetypes, which I had also forgotten. Bingo! The research into the archetypes of the Innocent, Orphan, Martyr, Wanderer, Warrior, and Magician made clear to me the plot arc of growth my character had to experience. This research opened the door to the boiler plate of the novel, the character’s inner journey. With the inner journey of the character so clear in my mind, I was able to take up the writing of the story after writing much of it. I developed a good fifty pages, the first three chapters, before I had to return home.
Other Work: My daily routine involved starting with a walk in the morning, journal writing, and then working on the novel. By 1:00 p.m. my well was running dry. After a lunch break I either made town trips to the library or worked on poems or other stories that needed polishing before I could submit them.
I submitted a number of poems to magazines and sent out two stories. This was very productive work for me because I usually have to go to my bookstore and do “business” stuff in the afternoon. To have time to research and submit work was a pleasure that nurtured me and gave me time to get away from the novel, yet I could stay in the writing state. This was a real bonus for me. And already the magazine Venus Envy out of Taos will be publishing “When a Poem Wears Muddy Shoes,” which I re-wrote and shortened while at the cabin. In Taos I participated in one poetry reading at Doc Martin’s and enjoyed another, the Dead Poets Night at Caffe Tazza.
(Jim Ciletti, poet, writer, and instructor, owns the bookstore Hooked on Books in Colorado Springs with his wife, Mary.)
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