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Poetry anthology explores Nevada life

“Sandstone &Silver: An Anthology of Nevada Poets,” covers ground both literal and metaphorical, from Nevada’s wide-open spaces to the spaces around us that define our lives.

It even explores terrain that’s rough and difficult to navigate, although Clark County poet laureate Heather Lang-Cassera, who edited the collection, writes in its foreword that she has found “significant comforts in the words of my fellow Nevadans.”

“Sandstone &Silver” (Zeitgeist Press, $14), is the first anthology that Lang-Cassera has curated during her tenure as poet laureate. In seeking contributors, she sought out poets who give back to the community in some way — for example, through teaching or hosting open-mic events.

The anthology includes the work of 54 first-time and previously published Nevada poets. Lang-Cassera says she asked contributors to simply “send poetry that they love. It wasn’t necessarily a specific theme or anything like that.

“I really looked at the writing itself, and I was really blown away by the quality of the work that came in. I expected it to be amazing, but it was phenomenal.”

Still, she also was hoping to create a narrative arc and have the poems “speak to one another in the anthology.” She feared that, with such an open-ended process, there would be poems that “I absolutely loved but just didn’t fit into this book.”

That turned out to be no problem.

“Fortunately, a lot of people wrote about Nevada, so I had a lot of options in terms of our beautiful land here in Southern Nevada and also Northern Nevada,” Lang-Cassera says.

Some of the poems overtly reference Nevada and the desert as a setting or a metaphor. Others are more subtle. But the collection fundamentally is “about what it’s actually like to live in Nevada,” she says, versus “the perception people might have.”

“The book weaves in and out of different landscapes,” exploring “the beauty of Nevada, and sometimes the harshness of Nevada … (and) people’s everyday lives, loss, grief, joy and all of the emotions in between.”

Poetry lovers and poetry newcomers both are likely to find something in the anthology that speaks to them. And to someone who’d ask why they’d ever need to pick up a poetry anthology? Lang-Cassera laughs.

“I get asked that,” she says.

“One of the things that I think is wonderful about poetry is, our lives are so busy today, and to have a physical book I can open up to any page and read a one-page poem and have experienced an entire work of literature in under two minutes, that’s amazing.

“I think it’s amazing that you can contemplate something and take away something new in one page. I think that’s pretty phenomenal.”

“Sandstone &Silver” is available at The Writer’s Block, 519 S. Sixth St. in downtown Las Vegas, and through Zeitgeist Press (zeitgeist-press.com).

Contact John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

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