"After the Dome Fire" by Ruth Nolan

  • "After the Dome Fire" by Ruth Nolan

In After the Dome Fire, author Ruth Nolan takes readers on an eco-poetic journey through the wilderness of California's Mojave Desert and Southern California, and the work of firefighting and raising a daughter as a single parent in a rough yet nurturing landscape. The poems also evoke a fierce and beautiful "desert" revealed as a vibrant character with its own agency to survive and regenerate from the devastating impacts of wildfires, and remind us all of the power of our desert environment to inspire and regenerate the human spirit.

After the Dome Fire is an inquiry into the shifting relationships between both flora and desert, and people and the desert we make of each them and they make of us. Wildfires and the work of firefighting are woven throughout. Through red sunsets, God-talking Joshua Trees, fire and sand, Nolan asks the essential question: can we teach tenderness and protection at same time? Can violence, which has always seemed natural, help us raise a daughter or a granddaughter during this lifetime? After the Dome Fire is a beautiful and grotesque confrontation of what hurts, what saves.
—Sara Borjas, author of Heart Like a Window, Mouth Like a Cliff, winner of a 2020 American Book Award

Ruth Nolan’s After the Dome Fire disrupts the flow of desert clichés, presenting a vision of life in the Mojave that is remarkably tender, yet unafraid. Embracing a region of “jagged landscape lacking trails,” a region where, it has been said, “no woman should go,” Nolan’s poems replace the romanticized, masculinized fantasy-image of the Mojave with stories, histories, and images that reflect maternal and indigenous wisdom stripped bare of sentimentalizing language.

By attending to the experiences of being female, out-of-place, or displaced, After the Dome Fire opens up a space from which to reflect upon the meaning of mothering in the desert. Since it is the atypical and the unlikely that animate Nolan’s poetics, desert mothering turns out to include shovels, chainsaws, and “a jeep in four-wheel drive.”

From Apple Valley to Death Valley (the “unfortunate” name white settlers gave to the Timbisha Shoshone homeland) to the backroad that links the high desert to alpine forests, these poems reject pretty metaphors, opting instead for a directness capable of disclosing the real violence that has always attended the romance of the American West. After the Dome Fire is a remarkable book that places resistance and tenderness on equal footing.

—Rebecca Gaydos, author of Güera (University of Chicago Press)

Ruth Nolan

Ruth Nolan grew up in California’s Mojave Desert and worked as a wildland firefighter for the Bureau of Land Management's California Desert District and also for the U.S. Forest Service, fighting wildfires throughout the western U.S. Her writing is forthcoming in Writing the Golden State: The New Literary Terrain of California (Angel City Press) and has been notably published in Boom, California; McSweeney’s; East Bay Times; Joshua Tree: Where Two Deserts Meet (Wildsam Guide); Los Angeles Fiction: Southland Writing by Southland Writers (Red Hen Press;) and Desert Oracle. Ruth also writes for News from Native California; Inlandia Literary Journeys; KCET Artbound L.A. and KCET Tending Nature. Ruth is Professor of English and creative writing at College of the Desert. She is curator of the humanities project Fire on the Mojave: Stories from the Deserts and Mountains of Inland Southern California, and editor of the critically acclaimed anthology, No Place for a Puritan: the Literature of California's Deserts (Heyday.) Ruth was named the inaugural Mojave Desert Literary Laureate in 2021.

Twitter: @RuthNolan

Facebook: ruth.nolan.31

Instagram: @RuthNolan

Email: ruthnolan13@gmail.com

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