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Richard Shelton

Richard W. Shelton (1933 - 2022) was an Arizonan writer, poet, environmentalist, and Regents Professor emeritus of English at the University of Arizona. Known as the poet laureate of the Sonoran Desert, he was the author of 11 books of poetry and creative nonfiction.

Born in Boise, Idaho, his first book, The Tattooed Desert, won the International Poetry Forum's United States Award in 1970. His fourth book, The Bus to Veracruz, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Going Back to Bisbee, his first book of creative nonfiction, won the Western States Book Award.

In 1974, Shelton established, under the auspices of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, a Creative Writer’s Workshop at the Arizona State Prison. In 2016, the program expanded to also include maximum security federal prisons. Many books of poetry and prose by the men in these workshops have been published, including the anthology Do Not Go Gentle. Shelton wrote Crossing the Yard: Thirty Years as a Prison Volunteer (2007, University of Arizona Press) about his experiences with this work.

As part of the prison writing program, Shelton also founded the Rain Shadow Review, a free literary journal showcasing the creative talents of current and former inmates of Arizona State prisons and throughout the United States. The workshops and journal continue to this day.

Shelton lived in Tucson, Arizona, until his death.

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