Lawrence In New Mexico

Episodes

First
Broadcast
Comments
20111103

"In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly and the old world gave way to a new"

- D.H.

Lawrence, "New Mexico"

The ashes of one of Britain's greatest writers lie lonely and untended in a tumbledown lodge, tens of thousands of miles from his birthplace.

The Kiowa ranch at Taos, New Mexico was the only place that DH Lawrence could ever bear to call his 'home' - and the only property he ever owned.

It was a place that haunted his spirit, which he yearned to return to in his fevered, consumptive dreams before his death.

Later, his beloved Frieda was to return there with his remains and keep his flame alive.

For the author and Lawrence devotee Geoff Dyer, this little-investigated corner of the American Southwest is where his hero wrote his greatest work: writings Geoff believes will stay contemporary long after Women in Love, Sons and Lovers and Lady Chatterley - whose once-revolutionary social and sexual mores drift slowly into anachronism.

In the little-known letters, essays and nature writing Lawrence poured out in Taos's unique terrain, are brilliant, vivid, ephemeral depictions of native American culture and landscape - writings which, uniquely, hold up a mirror to the author's ravaged psyche.

They reflect his neuroses about his home, his heart and his Englishness.

For Geoff, you can't truly understand Lawrence until you understand what he experienced in Taos, New Mexico.

Yet this little-known 'holy site' in Lawrentian studies that for decades thrived - welcoming Lawrence scholars and students (gratis) to experience the same unique creative atmosphere - is now falling dramatically into ruin.

Its university owners say they have no money to maintain it; some locals carp that the faculty has no real interest.

Only a hardy bunch of enthusiasts prevent Lawrence's only 'home' - and his poignant tomb - from being lost forever.

Geoff Dyer returns to a place that first stole his own creative heart more than a decade ago to make a passionate plea for the 'unknown Lawrence': replacing our image of the fey, nervous, English novelist - with his anxieties about sex, class and gender - with a creative spirit finally at home in the rugged American deserts and mountains - riding horses, doing DIY, communing with native American culture and joyously penning some of the finest travel and nature writing of the 20th century.

Geoff Dyer explores DH Lawrence's life-changing experiences in New Mexico in the 1920s.