Judyth Hill


Black Hollyhock, First Light


96 pages

6 x 8 inches

ISBN: 1-888809-23-x



Judyth Hill is a stand-up bard—a funny performance poet and a passionate advocate of The Tradition and The Muse. Deep Ecology elder Dolores LaChapelle has described her as a poet who “puts place and sex and love together in a way that is totally environmentally aware and totally human.” She has been called “energy with skin” and a “rabbi of the miraculous.” Her work is exuberant in its sustained electricity between self and world, its rhapsody with the other-than-human, and the singing in and of itself with juicy mouthfeel of alert and crafted language. This new collection, Black Hollyhock, First Light, contains poems which reflect the abundance and hospitality in life—full of itch, of heat, the flavor of apricots, yearning fox howls, a shrine filled with acorns, good coffee, the scent of the imaginary wafting off the sensuous curves of real bread, and thick cumulous clouds drifting over the front range at the end of the valley. There is both the fact of wind and a sense of inquiry into how hair feels as it blows. Instead of metaphor, we find ourselves in the realm of “the between”—that place of lush relationship.

When, like an impenetrable crowd at a coronation, the Divine surrounds the smallest, ordinary evidence of its own magnificence, Judyth Hill lifts us with a laugh up onto the tearful diligent shoulders of her poems to catch a glimpse.

—Martín Prechtel

On her knees in June, in the garden, or braced against the hollow of a winter night, Judyth Hill is a child of the landscape. Black Hollyhock, First Light awakens and enchants us line by line into that place where we are once again at home in the world.

—Gary Ferguson

I’ve admired Judyth Hill’s poems for many years. The poems in this book are delicate and have the sense of poetry inhaled from day to day.

—Robert Bly

Sit for a moment. Listen to a bard, a rabbi of the lyric valuables, a woman in tune with the cliff’s harmonium, the pine’s taut strings. Black Hollyhock, First Light takes us down into the Dionysian earth, unveils its gifts — “bulbs and rhizomes” — and brings us back in brilliance.

—Art Goodtimes


Judyth Hill writes from her studio at RockMirth, a hundred acre “art farm” near Las Vegas, New Mexico. She has published six previous books of poetry, founded the Chocolate Maven in Santa Fe, was director of TumbleWords, former coordinator of literary projects for New Mexico Arts, longtime ringleader of Talking Gourds, she has a cookbook The Dharma of Baking forthcoming from Celestial Arts, and currently leads workshops around the country.



Review by Laura Stamps

Aren’t we blessed to walk this earth as poets? Occasionally, a book comes along to remind us of this gift. Black Hollyhock, First Light by Judyth Hill is not only a beautifully produced book but also a magnificent collection of poetry. La Alameda Press prides itself on producing artistically attractive books, and the gorgeous painting of a black hollyhock by Joseph Biggert featured on the cover is a shining testimony to this unique philosophy of poetry book publishing.

Judyth Hill is a poet from New Mexico, popular across the Colorado Plateau for her powerhouse readings. This is her seventh book of poetry, which is a collection of poems written from her studio at Rockmirth, a canyon homestead situated on 100 acres of sculptural gardens and natural habitat that she shares with sculptor John Townley.

In "A Matter of Individual Drops" she writes, “It’s a matter of attention. / A poet’s job is to stay not busy. / That’s the work, that’s how you know what the weather is.” Yes, this is an enchanting collection about gardening, birds, and the joy of being a poet, laced with a strong dose of Hill’s exceptional sense of humor. The poem "Garden Party" is a good example: “Planted peas. // Three kinds of lettuce, lechuga, / Corn early and late, sunflowers to go with. / Some dill. Left space for radishes. // …The dead are all around us, breathing on our seeds. // When planting, I feel them, a hand on my shoulder, / A suggestion. But my ancestors weren’t gardeners! // Their advice, confusing, odd: Read Ovid. Wear a hat. / Study Lucretius. Write your sister. // Stop with the romaine and buttercrunch, already. // Listen to us, listen, then water.”

Don’t let the simplicity of these poems fool you. Hill’s craftsmanship is impeccable, and her wordplay a delight. In "More or Less, By Noonlight" we learn, “First hummer heard, rush to fill feeders. / A primary day: blue sky, red insistence, flock of goldfinch. // From these, comes the possible.” Or this wonderful passage from "Under Shandokah" in which she tells us, “Walking to where falling water makes four sounds. / We find a glade tuned to the truth in a pocket of pond. / It’s the inner loom of the forest, hung with webs and willows weft, / a fluff of seed and scatter.” In Hill’s world, the line between man and nature blurs; in “Nacimento, Neruda" she writes, “If only your green eyes flecked with sun / did not buzz and hum all night / to the ragged shore of morning. // If only this mountain was not so much like the sea, / rising and falling on our breath, / and these hills, forgiving themselves over and over into valleys.” And time is no longer counted in years, but in birds. "Umpteen Blue Jays Later" is a good example: “Twelve years, thirteen whoopers, sandhill cranes, / and conversations always stopped / by the swoop of redtail. // Many pine siskins later, / hooded junkos and the one time only oriole. / We’re older. Maybe wiser, / but certainly richer in magpies and starlings.”

Ultimately, Hill’s advice to poets is best expressed in these first lines from "Everything Aspires" in which we learn, “Tufted ear squirrel at the feeder, / keeps cautious outlook, feasting on seed. / Then scampers off, startled / by some shift in the landscape I’ve missed. // I don’t miss much these days. / I’m a tuning fork to the winds.” What fun! This book is a pleasure from cover to cover.