Illustration by Jessica Mercado

"Making the Best of the Worst of It"

Lauren Camp

     Poetry gives me a chance to document reality in an emotional way.

     I have lived in New Mexico for twenty-three years now. I bought my house nine days after I drove into town. From the start, I loved watching the way the clouds bubbled and shifted. The light blistered like a lit match, especially on overcast days, and I realized I needed this sort of glory. The climate was nearly perfect. Summers were not too warm and never sticky like the East Coast had been. And they came with the magic of blissful, brief thundershowers each afternoon.

     Winters were cold enough, but not bone-chilling or alarming. The worst part of the season has always been the wind—a dry, dusty force. Sometimes, winter is empty-feeling, and the wind makes everyone in my household anxious. “I’ve started naming the landscape: sweet,” my poem in North American Review, is a paean to our desert winter, one that is changing and warming and further drying as the climate shifts.

     I tell my students to document details for historical measure. What is real now will change. I can think of any intersection in town and know that the corner stores have been replaced numerous times while I’ve lived here. The residents of Taos give directions by the old blinking light, which no longer exists. Gas prices fluctuate. Everything evolves. And so, it seems, the weather does too.

     It’s important to capture a place at a particular time, and it is a pleasure to write about something uncomfortable (which winter is, for me). I am entranced by the stark encounter of wind with the page as I tackle this subject. It stops irritating me when it blows, insistent, through my language. 

A native New Yorker and now longtime resident of New Mexico, Lauren Camp is the author of three books, most recently One Hundred Hungers (Tupelo Press, 2016), which won the Dorset Prize.

Her poems have appeared in New England Review, Poetry International, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, Slice, Boston ReviewZócalo Public SquareNorth American Reviewand Beloit Poetry Journal. She has also twice guest-edited special sections for World Literature Today

Her poetry has earned a number of accolades, including the RL International Poetry Award, the Margaret Randall Poetry Prize, the National Federation of Press Women’s Poetry Book Prize, and the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award, as well as finalist citations from the Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize, The Lascaux Prize in Poetry, Best of the NetRHINO, Western Humanities Review and Southern Humanities Review.

Lauren has had work commissioned by SITE Santa Fe, The Studio Museum in Harlem (NY) and The Museum of International Folk Art (NM), and her poems have been translated into Mandarin, Spanish, and Turkish.

She is a Black Earth Institute Fellow, a staff writer for Poets Reading the News, a freelance writing teacher/mentor, and a veteran producer for Santa Fe Public Radio, where she hosts “Audio Saucepan”—a global music program interwoven with contemporary poetry.


Illustration by Jessica Mercado, a native New Jerseyan and a recent graduate of Parsons the New School for Design in New York City with a bfa in illustration. Jessica is not only interested in drawing people, but also how other people can affect them. Her motive is to create narrative illustrations that are thought provoking, sensory driven, and pure. With her sense of color and lines, Jessica expresses a sense of whimsy and energy that is effortless and never overwhelming.

Jessica is always open for commission, big or small, and you can view her work on instagram @jessmerco, or on her website, All inquires can be sent to