The Desert Split Open

Now in its fourth year, the Desert Split Open was created by Susan Rukeyser and her partner Mia Torres to continue the conversation started by Feckless Cunt: A Feminist Anthology (World Split Open Press, 2018). We host the monthly Desert Split Open Mic, Joshua Tree’s feminist, queer, and otherwise radical spoken word open mic. We welcome everyone who arrives with an open mind and heart, including those who would rather just listen. Occasionally we host readings by local and visiting authors, focusing on feminist writers of extraordinary prose.

Contact worldsplitopenpress[at] to join our mailing list.

May 2022

The Desert Split Open Mic returns this Sunday May 22, 4-6 PM!
What will you unlearn (again)? The old structures have failed us, but we expected that. Time to rethink everything we were taught, what we believe without evidence, what we take for granted as fact. Tell us what’s on your mind (again) this Sunday at the Pavilion, Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground. The Desert Split Open Mic invites everyone to read their poetry or prose – for up to 6 minutes. Please keep it feminist, queer, or otherwise radical. Show us what that means to you. You’re also free to just be there and listen. Sign up begins at 3:45. We are a spoken word open mic, so no music or other performance. Bring your open mind and heart – and a chair. Questions? Contact

 On Saturday, May 14, the Desert Split Open appeared at Hi-Desert Fringe! Caryn Davidson, Annie Connole, Dwayne Alicie joined host Susan Rukeyser to read vulnerable, thoughtful prose, reflecting our mission of encouraging and amplifying literary work that is feminist, queer, or otherwise radical. What a fun evening (and, wow… the location 🤩). There is so much talent, of many varieties, in this desert. 🤎



APRIL 2022
The Desert Split Open Mic met at our new home, the Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground. We had easy access to the shady Pavilion, which Mia helped build! This is where Mia lived when she first arrived in Joshua Tree. It’s where the JT Music Festival happens, as well as other special gatherings, and the place has a friendly, warm vibe – and many happy birds singing along with our words! At one point a few ducks (from the lake) flew overhead. (Ducks in the desert – you gotta come see that.) We had a sweet mix of old and new faces and were treated to a variety of smart, funny, moving work on a range of topics. I love hearing what’s on a reader’s mind, what’s weighing on their heart. As always, it felt like a privilege to be there, listening and then sharing my own words. I wrote about my mother, Alzheimer’s, and feminism. It meant everything to be heard. Thank you to everyone who came out and shared that time with us. Let’s do it again next month.


MARCH 2022
So much is broken, lost, worn down – what will you rebuild? Come tell us at the next Desert Split Open Mic: Sunday March 20, 2-4 PM – now at our new home, the Pavilion at the Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground (2601 Sunfair Rd, Joshua Tree, CA).



Many thanks to The Station Joshua Tree for hosting the Desert Split Open Mic when we found ourselves suddenly without a suitable place to meet. We LOVED being there! It is a popular venue for obvious reasons (great vibe; cool and funny items for sale all around). We hope to be back now and then. But we’re also excited about our new home, as of March 2022: the Pavilion at Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground, home of the JT Music Festival and more. We are so grateful to the members of our community truly dedicated to supporting the dynamic local talent we have out here in the hi-desert.  🙏❣️💙

January’s Desert Split Open Mic was a special one and I loved every minute. It was the kind of open mic that blows you away with the quality and diversity of work shared – we have some extraordinary local writers – but also in the notably receptive and kind audience. It feels like the right place to say what you really mean. I’m honored to be part of it. Huge thanks to Steve and Glen of The Station Joshua Tree for lending us their roomy, endlessly fun back patio at the last minute when our usual venue became unavailable due to renovations. Their enthusiasm for an opportunity to support their community meant the world to us. It was the perfect way to start off a new year – the DSOM’s fourth! There is a lot of talk about community, but last Sunday we saw it happen. I felt held and surrounded by it. I hope everyone there felt it too. Thank you.



And we’re back. The Desert Split Open Mic returned, after a 16-month hiatus, with familiar faces and new friends. We were blown away by the caliber of work shared and how these diverse pieces somehow complemented each other, as if the readings were curated. There was strong use of language and bold subject matter: heartbreaks, bawdy laughs, and much more. It was a special evening and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We needed this, I think. More than we knew.


MAY 2021

Our return to (outdoor, distanced) in-person events was the desert launch of Annie’s gorgeous new book, The Spring , which debuted May 2021 from Chin Music Press. An enthusiastic crowd braved unseasonable cold – and kindly overlooked some technical hiccups – to enjoy a packed, multimedia program. Opening remarks by Chin Music editor Todd Shimoda were followed by Annie’s reading of a selection from her book, accompanied by a slideshow of her photographs. My conversation with Annie included thoughts about the desert as inspiration, radical structure, and feminist themes. Before and after, we enjoyed original music by Gabriella Evaro, Kendall Morgan, and the author, and a loop of Annie’s evocative photographs. Many thanks to everyone who joined us and helped make it a special evening.

The publisher calls The Spring “a mythic memoir… a book-length lyric essay that examines grief and transformation through the lens of mystical animal appearances following the death of the narrator’s partner.” The language in this slim volume is as spare and deliberate as poetry. It exists in the liminal space between genres and worlds, peace and grief, where animals appear with messages, and patterns emerge to make sense of great loss. Following the narrator from Montana to the Mojave Desert, the book is illustrated with the author’s own photographs, lending another layer of poignancy and also a grounding in realism.

The Spring is available for purchase at your favorite independent bookstore,; Chin Music Press; and Amazon.

MARCH 2021

The Desert Split Open Presents… Bonnie Brady. Join us as we celebrate the publication of her new book, And That Was That: An Abortion Memoir, a straightforward collection of experiences before and after Roe v. Wade, recounted in Brady’s down-to-earth, engaging voice. Reading to include two special guests with Q&A to follow. This private event promises to reflect the intimate, empowering spirit of Joshua Tree’s Desert Split Open Mic, where some early excerpts from this book were first shared

RSVP worldsplitopen[at]gmail[dot]com to register.

And That Was That: An Abortion Memoir (ISBN 9780578806778, 35 pgs, $7.00) is available at; Amazon; and at the World Split Open Press Etsy shop where, throughout February and March, we will donate all profits from this book to the National Network of Abortion Funds.

NOV 2020

The Desert Split Open Presents… L.I. Henley and Zara Kand. We discussed their beautiful new chapbook, From the Moon, as I fell, a collection of poems and paintings they call “emotional landscapes,” set against a backdrop of the Mojave desert. It arose from the creative exchange, or inquiry, they began in early 2020, a response to the anxious isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic and quarantine. In this clip, I had just asked about the various feminist themes present in the book and the idea that certain values, like thrift and resourcefulness, are inherently feminist. Their answers were beautifully thoughtful. Following is a snippet of their multi-media presentation.

Copies are available online from Joshua Tree’s Space Cowboy Books, or from local retailers Soul Connection and Rainbow Stew. Or order directly from their websites:;

SEPT 2020

For our first online event, we were thrilled to welcome Vanessa Veselka, author of The Great Offshore Grounds. Vanessa’s virtual book tour follows the routes taken by her characters, including Cheyenne, who has a memorable day and night in Joshua Tree. The publisher, Knopf, calls The Great Offshore Grounds, “A wildly original, cross-country novel that subverts a long tradition of family narratives and casts new light on the mythologies—national, individual, and collective—that drive and define us.”

In our opinion, The Great Offshore Grounds is feminist, queer, and otherwise radical. It is also beautifully written, thematically ambitious, literary fiction. It is a big book, in all ways, so I was glad we decided to focus our conversation on promiscuity and feminism and our expectations of female characters (and authors).

Vanessa was kind enough to mention our event in a recent blog post:

“Cheyenne travels through Joshua Tree, spending a night in past, very personal hells, heightened by designer drugs, menstrual cramps, and loneliness. I got to have a wonderful conversation with Susan Rukeyser at The Desert Split Open…”

We can’t wait to invite her back to read in person.

the before times….

3 thoughts on “The Desert Split Open”

Comments are closed.