Lesley Poling-Kempes

Selected Works

The true story of remarkable women who left the security and comforts of genteel Victorian society and journeyed into the rugged outback of the American Southwest in search of a wider view of themselves and their world.
“In the exquisite novel BONE HORSES Lesley Poling-Kempes grandly creates the landscape of New Mexico as a living character – vital, enduring and full of magic. As the geography of the American Southwest comes alive on the pages, the geography of the heart is revealed to be far more than muscle and bone. This is a story of what truly knits us together – family, history, enduring friendships - served up in luminous language and unforgettable story-telling.” Mary E. Mitchell PEN Award-winning author
"Canyon of Remembering is a memorable and exceptionally well crafted novel." -- The Midwest Book Review
“A writer’s acute, compelling history of one of America’s more endangered landscapes. Digging deeply into the history of a place, Poling-Kempes mines a rich vein of lore and myth.” Kirkus Reviews
The definitive work about the Harvey Girls, Harvey Houses, and the Santa Fe Railway. Recently optioned by Atalaya Productions for a television series.
“Poling-Kempes is a skillful writer, smoothly dovetailing the human stories that make up the narrative of this pristine, peaceful, and appealing place. The author flat out knows how to tell a good story.” Richard Etulain
"In her meticulous account, Lesley Poling-Kempes discusses the geophysical origins of this land of 'extremes and contrast,' analyzing the layered stone formations and matching them up with O'Keeffe's keen observations of red shales, sandshales and silt stones created 200 million years ago. . ." – Dore Ashton, Times Literary Supplement

Quick Links

Ghost Ranch

Best Regional Non-fiction, Honorable Mention, Independent Publisher Book Awards

Southwest Books of the Year - "Top Choice" award, 2005

"Gracefully written, with a sharp eye for the kind of interesting detail that gives historical facts the breath of life, Poling-Kempes captures the depth of O’Keeffe’s feeling for the Abiquiu region, and the power this landscape has exercised over others." -- Albuquerque Journal

"A writer’s acute, compelling history of one of America’s more endangered landscapes … Digging deeply into the history of a place, Poling-Kempes mines a rich vein of lore and myth." -- Kirkus Review

"Most interesting are the accounts by several of Ghost Ranch’s guests and workers gathered as oral histories that illustrate this highly romanticized Western lifestyle." -- Library Journal

"In Ghost Ranch, Lesley Poling-Kempes has written a remarkable biography of a place … The tale represents a series of serendipitous intersections: of East and West, of wealth and the public good, of tourism and conservation, of art and archaeology, of the atom bomb and paleontology, and finally faith and personal renewal. Poling-Kempes has observed: "Over the years names and faces change, but the landscape and people’s experience of the land does not." -- The Journal of Arizona History

From the Introduction

"This is the story of a place called Ghost Ranch. The physical boundaries of the place encompass about twenty-two thousand acres of the high desert of the Piedra Lumbre basin of northern New Mexico. The ethereal space of Ghost Ranch is larger, and higher, and includes the boundless, wordless world that exists above, below, and within this place. It is a place of great emptiness, a place that is ‘more sky than earth,’ a place of vivid color, voluptuous proportion, and vast distances.

"Within the sky and earth of Ghost Ranch the world of humans is given its proper perspective in the scheme of the universe. But even as the land diminishes people, within the landscape of Ghost Ranch people also find connection to the infinite in ways that profoundly and permanently change their sense of interior and exterior scale, of the present and the past, the before and the hereafter.

"The name, Ghost Ranch, acknowledges both the brightest and the darkest threads of the place’s real and imagined history. Over a century, the place at Yeso Canyon underwent transformation from el Rancho de los Brujos, the Ranch of the Witches, a stone- and sand-land hideout associated with legendary evildoers, to Ghost Ranch, a spirited, magical sanctuary where the veil between the realms of heaven and earth seems to be so thin as to be transparent.

"But what is a place and how does one quality to become one? According to Wallace Stegner, a place becomes a place when it meets two criteria: ‘First, things that have happened upon it are remembered in history, ballads, yarns, legends, or monuments; and second, it has had that human attention that at its highest reach we call poetry.’

"Ghost Ranch and the Piedra Lumbre basin, which the ranch claims one-third of, surely quality as an Intimate Immensity -- Gaston Bachelard’s name for those bright edges of the natural world that merge within their landscape a sense of shelter and exposure, enclosure and expansion. Places of Intimate Immensity are high places of extraordinary beauty, but they are also landscapes of paradox: universal and personal, dangerous and comforting, temporal and transcendent."

Georgia O’Keeffe, quoted in Seiberling, Stark Visions.
Wallace Stegner, Where the Bluebird Sings, 165.