Vigilance is No Orchard
Vigilance is No Orchard
Poetry | $16.95
paperback, 112 pages, 7 x 9 in
Publication Date: 2018
ISBN: 978-1-937658-82-3

An experimental poem sequence inspired by a famous garden now in ruin

In Vigilance Is No Orchard, Hazel White records her haunting romance with the Valentine Garden, created by landscape architect Isabelle Greene in the foothills of Santa Barbara, California. Jealous of its maker’s power to affect a dynamic experience of space, White tries to make language play faithfully in the game coursing between the body and Greene’s fiercely stirring landscape. Both the poems and the constructed landscape they describe are complex and explorative, never simplified. Instead their interests are survival, forage and repair, the act of making, accumulation and overflow that results in flowering and eventually gives way to loss.

I was interested in this generous or ethical idea of a book as a place you might be welcomed into, like a ‘refuge.’ I was also very moved by the book as [a] site, also, of immutual ‘encounters’ that aren’t, always or necessarily, productive or easily explored. ‘This wants not to be a strong narrative,’ writes Hazel White, deep in her project of place, Vigilance Is No Orchard. But also: ...real work is hospitality.’—BHANU KAPIL

Hazel White's perfectly poised diction hangs in distilled suspension, capturing the exact atmosphere of this arid southern California garden, with its sense of endless air sifted by endless light. She evokes the play of pale grey-greens and silver-beiges, colors of the wind and sun, echoing the care with which innovative landscape architect Isabelle Greene positioned every detail. White doesn't describe the garden, but rather invokes it through a parallel gardening of language, arranging living elements so that they live beyond themselves. The whole is a thriving testament to growth as community.—COLE SWENSEN

Beginning over, in Greene’s miniature agriculture. Wide-eyed aerial aspect into fields of nurture. Urgently, I went.” And we readers also go, urgently, into these poems which regard Isabelle Green’s four year process of making a garden. But the making of this poem is also its own subject, “not leaving any part of itself behind.” Hazel White notes that “real work is hospitality,” and so this book-length poem, like the Valentine garden, continually occludes its own grandeur (and it is a grand proposition, this book) by pushing the garden forward, into the reader’s mind. And yet in the end the constructions the poet take us to positions from which largeness and grace become visible. There is a spaciousness of engagement—of love—in this poetry which is both breathtaking and a kind of breath-giving, inspiration itself.BIN RAMKE


"White (Peril as an Architectural Enrichment) unites her passions in this finely conceived collection that fixates on one remarkable garden in Santa Barbara, Calif. The work evolved over many years, from White’s first, visceral encounter with the Valentine Garden through her long friendship with the garden’s designer, legendary landscape architect Isabelle Greene. “I want to live in the green,” White puns. “And this wants out of me onto the page.” The book formally and substantively records White’s apprenticeship in Greene’s principles of composition, “reaching beyond a lesson to a dappled place where light plays.” Just as plants of Southern California’s harsh terrain “demonstrate the filigree of survival,” so do White’s lines form a “zigzag path/ of abandonment.” These elements both invite the reader to view from a distance and “draw a visitor forward” into contact, shelter, even trespass. White’s most ambitious passages merge poetry with the physical and phenomenological properties of this single, intentional acre: “now alive in the mind of the other, building to achieve her for her.” And yet, suffusing the book’s memorialization of the garden is the fact of its passing: “The vision was not mine to keep. It slows and fails.” Exquisitely alert to the realities of natural environments, White’s book is among the most interesting of the new nature writing."—Publishers Weekly

"Poet Hazel White, in her new book Vigilance is no Orchard, takes the project a step further, to include the investigation of her own writing process as she grapples with the overwhelming aesthetic impact of a private Southern California garden designed by landscape architect Isabelle Greene. The book is much more than a simple account of walking through the garden; it includes quotes from conversations between White and Greene, and it repeatedly circles through a thicket of inspiration, influence, writerly ambition and writerly despair."—Erika Howsare, [PANK]

The Cultural Landscape Foundation Interviews Hazel White
Conversation Between Hazel White & Jamie Townsend, Entropy Magazine