High Desert by Jane Augustine


High Desert by Jane Augustine: As with the classic Chinese poets writing in exile, Jane Augustine’s High Desert embodies a poetics of radical observation in which intense vision and awareness make the beauty and strength of place revelatory. A contemporary, contemplative itinerant, often jotting quick notes while on the road, she records a meditative consciousness imbued with history, memory, and Buddhist and feminist thought. Whether in her Colorado mountains, the south of France or lower Manhattan, even as drought, war, and destruction inevitably encroach, she illuminates poetry’s eternal work of tikkun olam, healing the world, and presses us to join her in it.


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 142
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: June, 2019
  • ISBN: 978-1-948017-43-5


In High Desert, Jane Augustine brings us vast stretches of wilderness, richly textured images, political awareness, and the transformative power of paying close attention to ordinary objects. The range of the poems in this collection is all-encompassing, stretching from an intense, almost mystical, contemplation of a the angled shadow of a deck rail to Syrian bombings, tsunamis, Suzuki roshi, and the Kaliyuga. As in her previous five collections, Augustine writes with strength and conviction, singing of arts and women, wild fires, war, corpses, children torn from their parents, loneliness, illness, pain, peace, meditation, friendship, and always the intense, lyrical beauty of nature. Augustine has a knack for surprise and unexpected twists. One of her most haunting poems, “The Man Who Sleeps Under the Scaffold,” is a portrait of a homeless veteran who survives in Manhattan by disguising himself as a pile of trash. “Mr. President,” he writes, “in the half-coffin I’ve made/ outside your real estate/ my hope for the future not yet quite/ turned upside down.” —Mary Mackey


5 p.m.: Momentary
about to close a notebook with a beaded cover

Five p.m. – put down
the pen. No, keep it going;
one little pearl in line

with many enclosed in
bugle beads’ green gold
iridescence. Light! More light!

Five oh-five looks toward
night. No, the day-gem
still glints its pinpoint signal.

One more note: day moon
opposite the sun
between them a white snow peak.


Jane AugustineJane Augustine is a poet, critic, short story writer, visual/sound poetry performance artist and scholar of women in modernity, with five books of poetry, most recently Krazy: Visual Poems and Performance Scripts (Marsh Hawk Press, 2015). She is the editor of The Mystery by H.D. (2009) and The Gift by H.D.: The Complete Text (1998) and numerous essays on H.D., Mina Loy, Lorine Niedecker and contemporary women poets. She has twice been awarded Fellowships in Poetry from the New York State Council on the Arts and has held the H.D. Fellowship at Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. She has taught at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York University and The New School in New York City, and Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. She lives in Manhattan and Westcliffe, Colorado.

Additional information

Weight 9.6 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .375 in