The Spirit of the Wasatch Front

A new anthology of creative nonfiction essays captures the beauty of the Wasatch Front and the voice of its people.

IMG_3191PROVO, Utah (March 6, 2015)—The Wasatch Front runs from Brigham City in the north to Nephi in the south. Though officially recognized as nothing but a metropolitan chain of cities, this region is home to beautiful sites and incredibly diverse peoples that have captured the imaginations of writers. Their works have been collected into a new anthology of creative nonfiction, Utah Reflections: Stories from the Wasatch Front.

Three of the anthology’s contributors shared their essays as part of the English Reading Series, hosted by the Department of English. Mary Johnstun, one of three editors to work on the anthology, introduced the speakers and explained the anthology’s purpose.

“We wanted to create a really beautiful collection of place-based creative nonfiction essays,” Johnstun said. “We wanted to not only create a collection of pieces that represents the vast geographical areas and landscapes, but also collect a good number of voices and an amazing pool of craft.” Together, the assembled essays present the people of the Wasatch Front – their traditions and ties to the land – and what it is that instills such love for their home.

Kase Johnstun – the second editor and contributor to the anthology – was first to read and presented his piece “Hold This.” The essay concerns an early experience of his with his father and uncle and reflects on his relationship with the men of his family, within the setting of the Wasatch mountains. For him, the setting is linked with the relationship. He explained, “When we thought about creating this anthology, I imagined asking people what Utah meant. I grew up in Utah, and most of my stories center around being a child here.” His piece and many others within the anthology explore what the Rocky Mountains and the Wasatch Front do for the people and how they become a part of their lives.

The essay is a prime example of the anthology’s goals. Instead of just being a long tribute to the area’s natural beauty, the anthology becomes a deep exploration of how the people interact with that beauty and its effects on them. Johnstun explained, “We wanted pieces that really focused on the unique voices and people living here, and then living in Utah, living in this place and interacting with it.”

The anthology establishes this theme with its very first essay, “Bounty” by Phyllis Barber. Barber, a former professor of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, read second. Her essay blends an experience shopping at a fruit stand with reflections on what the Wasatch Front really is. “I’m resisting the idea of the Wasatch Front as chain of cities, which seems to be an impossibly narrow focus on human population,” Barber read from her essay. She later read, “But my relationship with the Wasatch Range is an intimate, personal one.”

Lance Larsen, professor of English and Utah Poet Laureate, was last to read and shared excerpts from his piece “Looking for Spiral Jetty.” The subject breaks away from Utah’s natural beauty and focuses on Spiral Jetty, a man-made earthwork that has been added to the Great Salt Lake – an example of man and terrain coming together in pleasing and paradoxical ways.

“The essays, stories and poetry collected here embrace the paradox of this place,” reads the book’s introduction by third editor Sherri Hoffman. “It is a place of wilderness and amenity. Of harsh weather and ebullient outdoor sports. Of rock and water. Salt and faith.” By embracing these paradoxes and the people who live with them every day, the anthology will allow any reader to see this valley through new eyes and deepened pride.

For information on upcoming lectures, see the Reading Series schedule.

—Samuel Wright (B.A. American Studies ’16)