Opening the 'Turquoise Door'

The book design is by Taos designer Lesley Cox Courtesy illustration

When poet and teacher Lauren Camp was awarded an artist-in-residency at the historic Mabel Dodge Luhan House five years ago, she at first planned to work on quite another book, one about her father's early life in Iraq. But something about the surroundings of Taos made her begin work on her newest book, "Turquoise Door," released from 3: A Taos Press.

A book launch for "Turquoise Door" is planned Friday (Oct. 12), 7 p.m., at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House Classroom, 240 Morada Lane. Admission is free.

"Turquoise Door" introduces readers to the cultural anthropology of Taos in the early 20th century. Camp's collection of poems brings the author's personal attentions and the contemporary realities of the Southwest into a conversation with the historical forces of East Coast transplant Mabel Dodge Luhan: the early feminist, visionary arts patron, and writer who crusaded to create a utopian society in Taos. The poems engage with Mabel, her fourth husband Tony Lujan of Taos Pueblo and the many talented individuals who visited them in salons and residencies in her adobe home.

"I arrived at the house in June 2013 and stayed until July," Camp said in a statement. "Already that summer, all around my home in Santa Fe, wildfires were burning. We all felt the oppression of such extreme drought. There was an exhaustion, a sadness, a danger that hung over us. And so I wrote a great deal. In Taos, the staff at Mabel Dodge Luhan House were so kind and supportive and fed me generous quantities of historical information. Because I was away from my daily routine and responsibilities, I had time to explore in any direction that intrigued me."

She said she spent hours at the Couse-Sharp Historic Site, climbed to the cave that D.H. Lawrence wrote about in one of his stories, and visited Río Grande Gorge. "I was lucky to be able to settle in to Taos and begin to know it a little," she said. "I was not here as a tourist, but as a resident -- temporary though that was. The most precious time, though, were the hours I spent on the grounds of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, the hours spent in the Rainbow Room scribbling or typing notes, recreating and building a sense of the last century, trying to understand Mabel and her motivations."

Based on this experience, she wrote drafts of poems which eventually became her fourth book, "Turquoise Door."

Camp is the author of three previous books, including "One Hundred Hungers," which won the Dorset Prize and was a finalist for the Arab American Books Award, the Sheila Margaret Motton Award and the Housatonic Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Slice, Ecotone, Boston Review, Beloit Poetry Journal and the Poem-a-Day series from The Academy of American Poets.

For more, call (575) 751-9686.

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