The Desert Split Open

Save the date.
The Desert Split Open Mic meets again on Sunday, Oct 17, from 4:00-6:00 PM. Same place: the Joshua Tree Folk School, on the grounds of the JT Retreat Center. Everyone is welcome.

This spooky month, our thoughts turn to the past, to everything we can’t forget. What haunts you? Come read us your poetry or prose. Keep it feminist, queer, or otherwise radical – however you define that. Make sure your reading comes in well under the 6-minute limit.

Vaccinated only to read, please. We are a spoken word open mic, so no music or other performance. Bring a chair, water, and your open mind and heart.

Let’s do it again, but with an earlier start time: The Desert Split Open Mic, Sunday, Sept 19, 5-7 PM on the new outdoor stage at the Joshua Tree Folk School, JT Retreat Center. Last month we met for the first time in over a year and it was magical. It felt important for us to be together, if distanced (and masked when within 6 ft of others.)
So what’s on your mind this month? Texas? Covid? Afghanistan? The new school year, gun control, recalls, recounts, regurgitated disinformation? Maybe it’s more personal: your own identity or sense of isolation. Everything is a lot these days, but here is your motivation to write through the emotion and tangled thoughts to clarity and, hopefully, art.
Please be vaccinated to read. Make it feminist, queer, or otherwise radical. 6 minutes max. No music or other performance. Bring a chair, some water, your open mind, and a sense of humor.
Questions? Contact Susan at Hope to see 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.

Based in Joshua Tree, California, we host the monthly Desert Split Open Mic, which was originally inspired by a desire to continue the conversation started by the Feckless Cunt Anthology, which we published in 2018. Our focus is on extraordinary prose from underrepresented writers that is feminist, queer, or otherwise radical.
During a hiatus due to Covid-19 lockdowns, we became the Desert Split Open Presents, hosting online events with both local and visiting authors. In May 2021, we returned to in-person gatherings with an outdoor, limited-capacity, distanced reading and conversation with artist and author Annie Connole. The open mic resumes on Sunday, August 22, 2021.

Thank you to the writers and publishers who work and read with us.


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