The Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency for 2021 and 2022
I wished to dive into some deep stream of thoughtful and devoted life, which meandered through retired and fertile meadows far from towns. I wished...to lurk in crystalline thought like the trout under verdurous banks, where stray mankind should only see my bubble come to the surface. I wished to live, ah! as far away as a man can think.
—H. D. Thoreau, 1851
The Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency is a unique opportunity for a writer or pair of writers seeking a lengthy spell of unparalleled solitude for work and personal refreshment. In exchange for an hour a day of routine caretaking, the resident receives use of a remote, small but comfortable house in the Rogue River backcountry of southwestern Oregon and the support of a $5,000 stipend. The residency runs from the beginning of April through the end of October, entrance and exit dates varying with weather conditions. With proper planning, the resident may extend the residency through the winter if he or she chooses. The program is administered by PEN Northwest, the Northwest branch of PEN America, in cooperation with Frank and Bradley Boyden, program founders and owners of the property. The residency is named after their mother, a painter and nature enthusiast who, with her husband Allen, a Portland surgeon, pioneered the family’s presence at Horseshoe Bend and Dutch Henry Homestead in the 1940s.
The house stands on 92 acres of meadow and forest, known as Dutch Henry Homestead, in the canyon the Rogue River has formed for itself through the steep, forested terrain of the Klamath Mountains. The homestead is surrounded by public land managed as wilderness by the Bureau of Land Management. There are no neighbors. Wildlife—deer, black bears, wild turkeys, bobcats, the occasional cougar—abounds, as does silence. The Rogue, a fishable and federally-protected wild and scenic river, is 25 minutes away by trail. A large fenced garden area with grape vines and fruit trees is available for the resident's use. The climate is mild and wet in the spring, hot and dry in the summer, just right in the fall.
The house has a combined kitchen/living room, two small bedrooms, a standard bathroom with tub and shower, a sleeping loft, an enclosed porch area, and a covered deck. It is completely plumbed and has reliable hot water from a solar panel and coils in the wood stove used for heating the house. (Firewood is provided; the resident replaces what he/she uses.) Other appliances include a wood-fired cook stove, a propane cook stove with oven, a propane refrigerator with small freezer, and propane wall lamps. The house is fully equipped with cooking and eating ware, simple furniture including a queen-size bed, and a radio telephone. The house is wired with electrical outlets but there is no continuous source of electricity. A gasoline generator is available for occasional use—running a printer, for instance. A small solar electrical panel is capable of charging batteries to power a computer.
The Boydens have their own house on the property, a quarter-mile away and out of sight of the resident's house. They do not live on the homestead and scrupulously respect the resident's privacy on their infrequent visits.
Stewardship of the property is a privilege and responsibility that residents value as highly as solitude and silence. The resident's hour-a-day caretaking responsibilities include road and trail maintenance, mowing, pruning and weeding, maintenance of a half-acre (swimmable) pond, upkeep of the houses, and light repairs to homestead water systems. Duties are specified in a manual and will be fully explained and demonstrated at the beginning of the residency. No special expertise is required; a willingness to learn is. All tools and equipment are provided. The Boydens pay for all maintenance materials and all gasoline used in power equipment. The resident pays for telephone use and propane as well as for food and personal supplies.
Spouse, significant other, or friend—writer or non-writer—may accompany the resident (children too). Pets are welcome if housebroken. (We had a bad experience once with a rooster.)
Dutch Henry Homestead is two dusty or muddy hours, over teeth-jarring roads, from medical services and all cultural amenities save one—radio reception, including public radio, is pretty good. All writers considering this residency should honestly assess their appetite and tolerance for authentic backcountry solitude. You must be handy with a chainsaw or willing to learn; if a tree falls across the homestead drive, it will be up to you to deal with it if you want to get to town. You will need a reliable high-clearance vehicle, preferably but not necessarily four-wheel-drive. You must be ready to coexist with black bears and cougars. Above all, you must be self-reliant. The selected writer or writers will be required to visit the homestead a year ahead of the residency, in the company of the Boydens and PEN Northwest, for a firsthand look. After this visit and before beginning the residency, the selected writer(s) will be expected to sign a release by which he, she, or they assume the risks inherent to living and working in a remote wilderness location.
Summer forest fires in the area are a distinct possibility. The 2013 resident had to evacuate at the end of July due to a fire across the river. The access roads were not reopened in time for the residency to be resumed. In the 28-year history of the program, one other resident was forced to evacuate, for one or two weeks, and another was on alert. Evacuations are ordered by the Bureau of Land Management. During fire season the resident stays in close telephone contact with a BLM representative. The resident assumes all risks associated with fire and other acts of Nature. If a residency is interrupted or cut short by more than two weeks, due to an act of Nature or for reasons personal to the resident, the stipend will be reduced proportionately.
The residency is open to poets and writers of all kinds, advanced in their careers or just setting out. Publication credits are not mandatory. Applicants may be individuals, couples (with or without children), or partnerships of two willing to live together in close quarters. Applicants will be judged on the quality and/or promise of their writing and their suitability to this unique situation.