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Recent Books

Nobody Rich or Famous
Memoir | Nonfiction
University of Arizona Press, 2016
ISBN 9780816533992
Paperback, 288 pages

Nobody Rich or Famous is a literary memoir about family and place. Shelton travels to his childhood home in rural Idaho to connect with his past and discover his family history. The manuscript touches upon family dynamics, death and mortality, alcoholism, abusive relationships, and life in the rural and urban West. The book simultaneously exposes the conflicts within Shelton's family while illustrating life in Great Basin during the first half of the 20th century. This is memoir in its finest tradition, illuminating today's cultural chasm between the haves and have-nots. In the author's words, Nobody Rich or Famous is "the story of a family and how it got that way."

Top Pick Southwest Book of the Year, 2007

Crossing the Yard: Thirty Years as a Prison Volunteer
Memoir | Nonfiction
University of Arizona Press, 2007
ISBN 9780816525959
Paperback, 256 pages


Ever since he was asked to critique the poetry of a convicted murderer, he has lived in two worlds. Richard Shelton was a young English professor in 1970 when a convict named Charles Schmid—a serial killer dubbed the “Pied Piper of Tucson” in national magazines—shared his brooding verse. But for Shelton, the novelty of meeting a death-row monster became a thirty-year commitment to helping prisoners express themselves. Shelton began organizing creative writing workshops behind bars, and in this gritty memoir he offers up a chronicle of reaching out to forgotten men and women—and of creativity blossoming in a repressive environment. Reflecting on his decision to tutor Schmid, Shelton sees that the choice “has led me through bloody tragedies and terrible disappointments to a better understanding of what it means to be human.” Crossing the Yard is a rare story of professional fulfillment—and a testament to the transformative power of writing.

Western States Book Award for Creative Nonfiction, 1992
OneBook Arizona, 2007

Going Back to Bisbee
Memoir | Nonfiction
University of Arizona Press, 1992
ISBN 9780816512898
Paperback, 329 pages


One of America's most distinguished poets shares his fascination with a distinctive corner of our country. Richard Shelton first came to southeastern Arizona in the 1950's as a soldier stationed at Fort Huachuca. He soon fell in love with the region and upon his discharge found a job as a schoolteacher in nearby Bisbee. Now a university professor and respected poet living in Tucson, still in love with the Southwestern deserts, Shelton sets off for Bisbee on a not-uncommon day trip. Along the way, he reflects on the history of the area, on the beauty of the landscape, and on his own life. Couched within the narrative of his journey are passages revealing Shelton's deep familiarity with the region's natural and human history. Whether conveying the mystique of tarantulas or describing the mountain-studded topography, he brings a poet's eye to this seemingly desolate country. His observations on human habitation touch on Tombstone, "the town too tough to die," on ghost towns that perhaps weren't as tough, and on Bisbee itself, a once prosperous mining town now an outpost for the arts and a destination for tourists. What he finds there is both a broad view of his past and a glimpse of that city's possible future. Going Back to Bisbee explores a part of America with which many readers may not be familiar. A rich store of information embedded in splendid prose, it shows that there are more than miles on the road to Bisbee. 



The Tattooed Desert, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1971

Of All the Dirty Words, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972

Calendar, Baleen Press, 1972

Among the Stones, (out of print), Monument Press, 1973 

You Can't Have Everything, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1975

The Bus to Veracruz, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1978

Selected Poems: 1969-1981, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982

Hohokam, SUN/Gemini Press, 1986

The Other Side of the Story, Confluence Press, 1987

Documentary Films

Sonoran: The Hidden Desert, University of Arizona Film Bureau, 1980

Another Day, University of Arizona Film Bureau, 1981

The Sound of Water (script and direction), University of Arizona Film Bureau, 1982


Journal of Return, Kayak Press, 1969
The Heroes of Our Times, Best Cellar Press, 1972
Chosen Place, Best Cellar Press, 1975
Desert Water, Monument Press, 1981
A Kind of Glory, Copper Canyon Press, 1982
Richard Shelton's Greatest Hits, Pudding House Press, 2003

The Last Person to Hear Your Voice
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007
ISBN 9780822959571
Paperback, 120 pages


While Richard Shelton has been known primarily for his poems dealing with the landscape of the Southwest and the destruction of that landscape, the poems in this book are much more far-ranging, including many poems dealing with social issues (the issue of illegal immigration on our southern border, homelessness), historical events (the war in Iraq, the events of 9/11) and attitudes concerning politics and the environment. The poems are filled with sensory images, engaged in the real world, often ironic or simply off-the-wall, and their tone ranges from deeply sad, as in a requiem for Glen Canyon on the Colorado River, to the wildly funny, as in Brief Communications from My widowed Mother.

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