Kathryn Winograd


In Phantom Canyon Kathryn Winograd takes her place among America’s most celebrated writers—Thoreau and Annie Dillard come immediately to mind—who turn to the violence and beauty of nature to spark deeper understandings of the human community, and of the body and mind.  Winograd adds to the mix her own insistence to confront even the most violent personal trauma—her own experience being raped as a child. For Kathryn Winograd the lyrical imagination, spiritual healing, and the love of beauty everywhere around us, come most fully alive only through recognizing also the harsher realities of the human condition. In a "long bow to the earth and to the fragile self,” Winograd offers us the fullness and frailty of her own life, the natural world and the people she loves.

--Stephen Haven, author of The Last Sacred Place in North America and The River Lock: One Boy's Life along the Mohawk.

To travel with the narrator across the twenty-three essays of Kathryn Winograd’s Phantom Canyon is to travel out of silence.  We go with her as she returns to the farm in Ohio to confront the ghosts still swirling in the woods where she was raped as a girl of thirteen, and we return—always—to the sanctuary of the Colorado cabin she and her husband build together by Nipple Mountain.  Along the way, these wide-ranging essays take us through stud farms and the Navajo Nation, into bathtubs and lion enclosures, down highways and deep into the forest.

Winograd finds the most unlikely containers for the most urgent subjects. How does one reconcile, in the natural world, science and faith? Eyes, mind, and heart wide open, Winograd shows us what she can hold in her hand—shotguns, bird eggs, mushroom spores—and tilts our chins up to study the night sky.  Everything is here: botany and astrology, ornithology and ophthalmology, astrology and mythology—deep-digging geology.  Everywhere, Winograd drills down, deeper into language, deeper into the earth, deeper into memory and the heart.  She finds loneliness, fear, grief, and ultimately—transformation.  Forgiveness.  Grace.

The very best books invent their own genres and Winograd’s Phantom Canyon has done just that.  The shimmering syntax, the metaphor, the way the patterned images add up to something that wasn’t there before—that’s the lyric.  But there’s also a story here.  Phantom Canyon is a page-turner, a collection of lyric essays you won’t be able to put down.  As a writer, teacher, mother, daughter, and survivor, I needed this book.  You do, too. 

--Jill Christman, author of Darkroom: A Family Exposure