The Salton Sea

I mentioned the Salton Sea in my previous post about Marisa Silver's novel and I've just run across a documentary about the sea, Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea, produced and directed by Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer and narrated by John Waters. It is not a particularly innovative piece of documentary film making, but it presents a portrait of the place and its people that may be of interest even to people who haven't been there. There is a political undertone having to do with the allocation of water from the Colorado River, but the film doesn't do much more than mention it. I've also begun reading William Vollmann's massive study, Imperial, which undertakes an exhaustive description of its eponymous California county, in which the Salton Sea figures prominently. Vollman's 1000 page book was published with a companion volume of the author's photographs, which I have also now got on hand. Going back to my roots, you might say -- however parched and salt-encrusted they may be. Some people find Vollmann's meandering prose irritating, but so far I am charmed by it. Give me another six or seven hundered pages & we'll see!

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

1 thought on “The Salton Sea”

  1. thank you, joseph, for these 2 postings on the salton sea. i think i may have seen on tv that documentary. i will look for both books — by silver and vollmann. your beginning describing your childhood experience and your connection to your grandfather and then going further in the growth of your understanding of the place and the nature of it and the glimmerings of human intervention: this is how we start as josephine miles would describe as going out into the fields of learning. and then how we come to the place in her 8 line poem “ride” in her 1974 selection TO ALL APPEARANCES (p.109) (U of Illinois) that begins “It’s not my world, I grant, but I made it.” and ends the 2nd quatrain with “But now it’s down the road, and we’re in it.”

    i don’t know why i explain myself to you, yet it’s what happens, joseph. it’s the true teacher in you that pulls out and develops, or lets the student develop, what is already there unexamined.

    in “paths” from the same collection (p.36) is another short poem (following a 2-page “fields” one) called “paths”. Here’s the first half:

    Going out into the fields of learning,
    We shake the dew from the grasses.
    All is new.
    The paths we make through the wet grasses
    As if with light.

    Josephine (Jo as we called her) would have been happy to read Silver’s and Vollmann’s books and see the documentary PLAGUES AND PLEASURES ON THE SALTON SEA by Metzler and Springer. jo knew so well that “this is as far as the land goes, after this it is the sea.” (p.48).

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