Recommended Reads by Jolie Kaytes

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Jolie Kaytes’ essay “Drawing from the Blast Zone” appeared in’s Issue 31: Ruin and Renewal, Part II. Here, Kaytes shares a few of the books that have influenced her work.


Each of the titles below are “open anywhere” books that orient, disorient, and reorient readers to the complexity of landscapes. Through the use of writing and imagery, they express the physical and tangible, as well as the invisible and fleeting qualities of places and the processes that shape them.


Petrochemical America by Richard Misrach and Kate OrffPetrochemical America by Richard Misrach and Kate Orff

Petrochemical America is a newly published collaboration between photographer Richard Misrach and landscape architect Kate Orff. The book—provocative, beautiful, informative, and instructive—is a visual narrative of the Mississippi River Industrial Corridor. Divided into two sections, the first half of the book features Misrach’s understated and profound photographs of this region, also known as Cancer Alley. His images quietly reveal the contemporary cultural landscape and allude to the overlapping issues among people, petroleum, settlement, access, and community. Part two of the book is an “ecological atlas,” in which Orff unpacks, interprets, and links Misrach’s photographs through maps, diagrams, and collages. All of the atlas images are exquisitely crafted and thoroughly researched, and they poignantly portray the influence that oil and petrochemical-related activities continue to have throughout this region. The book also includes a “Glossary of terms and solutions for a post-petrochemical future.” This modest addition is a significant bonus, as it provides readers with constructive actions that have the potential to shift the dialogue about oil and even potentially change our relationship to it.


River of Memory: the Everlasting Columbia by William LaymanRiver of Memory: the Everlasting Columbia  by William Layman

In River of Memory: the Everlasting Columbia William Layman weaves the work of past and present writers and artists with historical images and accounts to tell the many stories of the Columbia River prior to damming. The book’s organization follows the river, from its mouth in Astoria, Oregon to its source in British Columbia. Along the way, the reader finds prose alongside photographs alongside poetry alongside paintings that express how the river transforms and has been transformed. In their remembering and celebration of what was the Columbia River, each spread of pages is both gorgeous and heartbreaking.


Home Grown: Language for an American Landscape By Barry Lopez and Debra GwartneyHome Ground: Language for an American Landscape edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney

This collection defines and depicts the terms used to describe the physical features and processes that constitute the American landscape. Each term is explained by one of the forty writers who contributed to the book, and like a dictionary or encyclopedia, the terms are ordered alphabetically. With each entry, the reader learns something about a given word’s meaning or history, and how each particular feature or process might express itself on the ground, across the water, in the sky, in novels, and poems, or in our imaginations. Throughout the book there are elegant illustrations by Molly O’Halloran that complement and enhance the writing. Home Ground translates the vocabulary that describes the earth into the vocabulary of lived moments and allows the reader to consider how the language of landscape might be more profoundly understood in terms of human experience, and vice versa.


Jolie Kaytes lives in Moscow, Idaho. She bike commutes daily to Washington State University in Pullman where she is an associate professor of landscape architecture in the newly formed School of Design and Construction. Jolie’s teaching, writing, and images integrate disciplinary perspectives and focus on recognizing and celebrating the complexity of landscapes. She is particularly interested in how landscapes are represented, how design can be used as an environmental advocacy tool, the role of landscape architecture in food systems, and the Columbia River Basin.

View “Permaculture: Applying Ecology at Home,” a narrative slideshow by Jolie Kaytes and Paul Charpentier, which appeared in Issue 26.

Header photo by Simmons B. Buntin. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.