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Word S6:E7 — Seasons endings bring reflection and a look forward

What do a former hotshot from Arizona, a Valley poet with a new collection about addiction as well as a planetary scientist and creative writer from Tucson have in common? They comprise our season-ending episode of "Word." It’s a podcast about literature in Arizona and the region.

Guest list

Brad Mayhew is a former wildland firefighter, better known as a hotshot and was the lead investigator for the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire in which 19 firefighters perished amid one of the country’s deadliest wildfires.

Mayhew still lives in Arizona and is working on a memoir about the fire with the working title, “Silence Is Golden.” The book examines how communication breakdown can lead to deadly consequences.

He shared his experience and explored the human factors of communication and operational learning, topics which he also covers routinely on his podcast, “Anchor and Flank.” His memoir is expected in Spring 2022. 

Susan Vespoli joined us to discuss her new book of poetry, “Blame It On The Serpent,” due out in January 2022.

She is a teacher with a long connection to the state and the Valley who has endured a rougher life than many which is the topic for her upcoming release. The poems investigate how she dealt with the addiction to opioids by two of her children  

Another Valley poet, Shawnte Orion, described Vespoli’s work in part as, “a 3 a.m. wellness check on the loved ones who break your heart. Vespoli’s lines pull unconditional beauty from the wreckage of each page to accept the serenity she cannot change, but accept it slant. Vespoli writes the most vulnerable over-the-counter poems you can get without a prescription.”

Richard Leis from Tucson  joined us earlier this year during National Poetry Month. 

He is a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona who works with the Mars  High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) team.

Leis returned for this season-ender to discuss the importance of scientific discovery on another planet and the implications for improving conditions on Earth by studying other heavenly bodies.

A widely published short fiction writer and poet, he examined how the long arc of the continuing pandemic has affected his writing and also previewed the upcoming 2022 Tucson Poetry Festival scheduled for late April.

KJZZ news, NPR programming, the BBC, music, entertainment and original programming like “Word” is made possible with member support. 

If you’re already a member of KJZZ, thanks very much! If not, please consider a gift of $10, $20 or maybe $50 a month. Whatever is in your budget is the right amount.

Also, please send us an  email. We’d love to read your recommendations for future guests or even something you liked about this episode.

Thanks for supporting literature in Arizona and the region!

Tom Maxedon was the host of KJZZ’s Weekend Edition from 2017 to 2024.