Going Back to Bisbee
By Richard Shelton
University of Arizona Press, Paperback, 9780816512898, 329pp.
Publication Date: May 1992
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One of America's most distinguished poets now shares his fascination with a distinctive corner of our country. Richard Shelton first came to southeastern Arizona in the 1950s as a soldier stationed at Fort Huachuca. He soon fell in love with the region and upon his discharge found a job as a schoolteacher in nearby Bisbee. Now a university professor and respected poet living in Tucson, still in love with the Southwestern deserts, Shelton sets off for Bisbee on a not-uncommon day trip. Along the way, he reflects on the history of the area, on the beauty of the landscape, and on his own life. Couched within the narrative of his journey are passages revealing Shelton's deep familiarity with the region's natural and human history. Whether conveying the mystique of tarantulas or describing the mountain-studded topography, he brings a poet's eye to this seemingly desolate country. His observations on human habitation touch on Tombstone, "the town too tough to die," on ghost towns that perhaps weren't as tough, and on Bisbee itself, a once prosperous mining town now an outpost for the arts and a destination for tourists. What he finds there is both a broad view of his past and a glimpse of that city's possible future. Going Back to Bisbee explores a part of America with which many readers may not be familiar. A rich store of information embedded in splendid prose, it shows that there are more than miles on the road to Bisbee.
Winner of the Western States Book Award for Creative Nonfiction" "From Tucson to Bisbee is only a hundred-mile trip through the basin and range country of southeastern Arizona, but Richard Shelton makes it a memorable ride through time and experience. . . a memoir rich in the history of the area and in wisdom about the natural world. . . . Shelton has a generous sense of humor, a clear vision of the world and, ultimately, wonderful stories to tell." Michael Pearson, New York Times Book Review "Humor, poignancy, humaneness, word magicthese all make Going Back To Bisbee fit company with Dillard, Eiseley, Abbey, and Graves. . . . A beautiful book."Journal of the West "A poet of elegance and precision." Harvard Review "Poet-professor Shelton offers his first full-length prose workand it's cause for celebration. . . . recalls the violent history of this long-isolated border area. . . . Shelton's literary touch is sure, and he seemingly achieves his effectsnostalgic, witty, inspirationalwith little effort. A delightful companion piece to Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence." Kirkus Reviews "He's a magician, hypnotizing his audience one moment with a tribute to coyotes, then waking them to a discussion of the Apache wars. . . . Shelton possesses great generosity of soul, a gift for observation, and golden sense of humor." Booklist "A powerful annal of place. . . . Shelton imbues landscapes, flora and fauna with resonance, imprinting themes of memory, history and human nature in the reader's mind. . . . Shelton knows the lore and life of Southern Arizona, and his diction, both precise and evocative, reflects his poetic skills." Publishers Weekly "There's so much in this book to discover, so many evocative passages and entertaining side trips." Los Angeles Times Book Review "A heartfelt memoir, a spectacular natural and social history of a spectacular land. It is as fine a book as you will read this year." San Diego Tribune "It enriches the life of the reader by reminding him of his own past. . . . A lyrical search to determine what has happened during a life lived and experienced." El Paso Times