Book cover for Soil

Soil: The Story of a Black Mother's Garden

With Camille T. Dungy

Tuesday May 23, 2023, at 7pm ET

Approximately 60 minutes. This virtual program is free, but registration is required. You will be sent an email with a link and instructions on how to join the program upon registration. Closed captioning is available as an option via Zoom’s live transcription.

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In Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden, poet and scholar Camille T. Dungy recounts the seven-year odyssey to diversify her garden in the predominantly white community of Fort Collins, Colorado. When she moved there in 2013, with her husband and daughter, the community held strict restrictions about what residents could and could not plant in their gardens.

Dungy’s research on what grew in and around her garden led her to the work of a nineteenth-century botanist named Thomas Nuttall, who lived and worked in North America from 1808-1841. Consulting the taxonomical names for scores of North American species, Dungy began to see Nuttall’s imprint and legacy in her garden and the surrounding landscape.

In resistance to the homogenous policies that limited the possibility and wonder that grows from the earth, Dungy employs the various plants, herbs, vegetables, and flowers she grows in her garden, many of which were named by or for Thomas Nuttall, as metaphor and treatise for how homogeneity threatens the future of our planet, and why cultivating diverse and intersectional language in our national discourse about the environment is the best means of protecting it.


Camille DungyCamille T. Dungy’s latest book is Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden (Simon & Schuster: May 2023). Dungy is also the author of four collections of poetry, including Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan University Press: 2017), winner of the Colorado Book Award; Suck on the Marrow, winner of the 2011 American Book Award; and Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History (W.W. Norton: 2017), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism.

Dungy’s interest in the intersections between literature, environmental action, history, and culture led her to edit Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (University of Georgia Press: 2009), the first anthology to bring African American environmental poetry to national attention. She also co-edited From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great , and is currently the poetry editor for Orion magazine. Dungy’s work has appeared in dozens of anthologies plus print and online venues in the U.S. and abroad. A University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University, Dungy’s further honors include the 2021 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, a 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship, two NAACP Image Award nominations, and fellowships from the NEA in both prose and poetry. She held a Hearst Foundations Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society in 2005 where she conducted research for Suck the Marrow.

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