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Robin Patten’s “The Carcass Chronicle” wins the John Burroughs 2019 Nature Essay Award


We are delighted to announce that the John Burroughs Association has selected Robin Patten’s “The Carcass Chronicle” as winner of the John Burroughs 2019 Nature Essay Award. Patten’s essay, which appears in our Fall 2018 environmental-writing feature, represents a striking blend of the empirical and the evocative.

Patten has gathered deep research, close field observation, and sharp insight in prose that is clear and rich with imagery. The result is a clear-eyed and affective meditation on the interrelationship of all things.

In announcing the award, the Association wrote, in part:

John Burroughs opens his essay “A Sharp Lookout” with the following: “One has only to sit down in the woods or the fields, or by the shore of the river or the lake, and nearly everything of interest will come round to him. . . .” There is no better proof of this wise saw than Robin Patten’s essay, “The Carcass Chronicle.” The only difference is that she comes round to an elk’s carcass that, over time, will prove to be a magnet drawing all kinds of wildlife into view. She learns—or intensifies what she has always intuited–that she herself is part of the large “community of life” we call nature. In her own words, “by listening with more than my ears, attuned in a way that left me balanced on the brink of understanding something inexplicable and timeless, yet close,” she sees the world anew. Her sentences mediate between self and other in a style lucid, deeply emotional, and highly poetical.

Robin Patten writes about the natural world and the relationships between people and place, where nature and culture meet. She is a contributor to the Guardian’s Country Diary column, and her work has appeared in Camas: The Nature of the West, Montana Outdoors, and The Mindful Word.

To purchase a copy of the issue in which Patten’s essay first appears, visit our shop.