Wealthy art patron Mabel Dodge Luhan built a big house in Taos between 1918 and 1922 and then, over the years, invited writers and visual artists to stay at her place and use the time to create. A century later, her legacy lives on. In 2013, Santa Fe writer Lauren Camp was a poet in residence at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, now a historic inn and conference center. Inspired by Luhan’s activities in Taos and the history and landscape of the village, Camp wrote Turquoise Door: Finding Mabel Dodge Luhan in New Mexico (3: A Taos Press, 2018). The poems in the book are about — and to — Luhan; they also explore the artists she housed and Camp’s sense of Taos in the 21st century contrasted with what she imagines Taos was like in Luhan’s bygone era.
“At the time I went up there, I was escaping a terrible fire season in Santa Fe,” Camp said. “It was nothing like that up in Taos. Fire underlies this collection, in the beginning and then at the end, when I’m heading back home.”
An element of tension entered the writing of the poems in Turquoise Door because, as Camp admits, Luhan was known as a complicated and controlling person. The book is an attempt, in part, to grapple with Luhan’s humanity. “I think it’s interesting that I wrote about someone that I think I would not have liked in person, and who would not have liked me.”
Journey Santa Fe hosts a reading and discussion about Turquoise Door: Finding Mabel Dodge Luhan in New Mexico with Lauren Camp at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 11, at Collected Works Bookstore (202 Galisteo St., 505-988-4226). The discussion will focus on Camp’s research process for poems about artistic work. Admission is free. For more information, go to journeysantafe.com or collectedworksbookstore.com.