Truckee English professor releases new book of poems |

Truckee English professor releases new book of poems

Tanya Canino
Special to the Bonanza
June Sylvester Saraceno at the Camac artists residency in Marnay-sur-Seine.
Courtesy Carolina Cruz Guimarey |

Readers will discover “deftly-crafted narrative moments that unreel like snippets of cinema” in the poems of June Sylvester Saraceno’s new book, entitled “Of Dirt and Tar.”

The second, full-length collection of poetry by Saraceno, the English department chair at Sierra Nevada College, will be released March 1 by Cherry Grove Collections, with accolades on its jacket by some of the nation’s top poets.

Patricia Smith, who won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for the most outstanding book of poetry in 2013, said, “There’s a rumor making the rounds that poetry, alas, is dead — I know of no better way to refute that idiocy than to immerse yourself in these lyric stanzas, these deftly-crafted narrative moments that unreel like snippets of cinema. June Saraceno has once again infused the literary landscape with a necessary breath; this long-awaited volume couldn’t come at a better time.”

While Iraqi war veteran and poet Brian Turner, author of the acclaimed “Here, Bullet,” invites readers, saying, “I promise you: this book is just as good at 30,000 feet over the Atlantic seaboard as it is in a rocking chair on the back porch of a moonlit home in the woods.”

The publisher, Cherry Grove Collections, states that it seeks poetry collections “that sing the essential human songs of our times.” In choosing Saraceno’s book for publication, Cherry Grove Collections editors noted, “The poems of June Sylvester Saraceno’s ‘Of Dirt and Tar’ concern themselves as much with air and light as with the world’s physical objects, lifting up as much as they dig down and deep.”

A Truckee resident, Saraceno reveals influences from the American West in her poems along with an upbringing in the American South. She is the author of “Altars of Ordinary Light,” released by Plain View Press in 2007, and a chapbook of prose poems, “Mean Girl Trips,” published by Pudding House Press in 2006.

“In ‘of Dirt and Tar’ I’ve tried to explore different ground by experimenting more with persona poems, with form, and with stylistic choices that don’t always involve direct narrative. It was challenging, but ultimately liberating to write in voices of assumed characters,” Saraceno said.

Her work, both poetry and fiction, has appeared widely in journals and anthologies since she began her career by earning a BA in English at East Carolina University in North Carolina. She earned her MFA from Bowling Green University in Ohio, and began transforming Sierra Nevada College’s English department in 2002 as its chair.

Aside from Saraceno’s recent achievements of developing a BA, BFA and MFA degree in Creative Writing, she initiated the Writers in the Woods series in 2010 and founded the literary journal, “The Sierra Nevada Review,” in 1990. In May 2013, Nevada Humanities, a nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment of the Humanities, honored Saraceno for Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities.

Last summer, Saraceno spent a month in Marnay-sur-Seine, France with the international artists residency program, Camac Art Center, and plans to return in July for more inspiration. She began a third collection of poetry during the Camac residency last summer, which she hopes to complete when she returns this summer. For now, Saraceno is excited about the release of her latest book.

“Of Dirt and Tar is a line from one of the poems in this collection that makes a tonal link between my experiences as a Tar Heel (I’m from North Carolina originally) and the other regional influence on many of the poems, my life in the West,” Saraceno said.

A review by the critically acclaimed New Jersey poet, Laura McCullough, said of Saraceno’s poems: “Elegiac at times, they also ring with hopefulness, as if the speaker has thrown herself onto ‘the back of something that breaks from the dark / into a gallop, / and head(s) out heedless on the path to daylight.’ These poems are both artifact and art in their quiet, soulful courageousness.”

“Of Dirt and Tar” can be purchased on or for $18 on Saraceno’s website, The book can be found locally at Sierra Nevada College’s campus store and other regional bookstores.

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