Nancy Takacs

Nancy Takacs’s poetry has appeared in The Harvard Review, Kestrel, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Nimrod, Weber, and many other literary journals. She is the recipient of awards, including The Juniper Prize, Finalist for the National Poetry Series, The Sherwin Howard Poetry Prize,The Kay Saunders Poetry Prize, the 15 Bytes Poetry Prize, TheNation/Discovery Award, and the book-length Poetry Award from the Utah Arts Council. Nancy has also been an artist-in-the schools, as well as in prisons. An MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, she is an emeritus professor at Utah State University Eastern, and former wilderness studies instructor. She currently teaches writing workshops privately, and for communities of writers, nature and its wild places a source of inspiration for her writing as well as her teaching. Helping others find their voice through the writing process is a focus in her classes. Nancy lives in Wellington, Utah, with her husband Jan, and their two dogs. The San Rafael Swell nearby is one of her favorite hiking places. She spends time in Bayfield, Wisconsin, also happy to be near the Big Lake.

Nancy Takacs









What the Landscape Might Say
Helper, Utah

The mountain
loved you before
you were born.

If you don’t look too hard,
the tan land
has a teal blush.

In Spring Canyon
you might find that jewel —
pink glass from an ancient dish.

Turn left
at the withered awning
to see the brightest stars.

A train will call to you
at each crossing
through the darkness.


This is where
they didn’t get along,
then did,
after an ocean
of old countries,
to find happiness,

to butter cakes on Main Street,
to arrange the blossoms,
to sell the sausage, the coffee,
to steal a payroll, gamble,
to nail the rails or mine or hook
the helper engines on,
to keep the kids true
among the sorrows.

A newcomer Emily, at first,
said to her husband
George: We live
at the edge of the world.

Their daughter Helen later
had a passion to write
about this world. *


New outlaws lift brushes
to vermillion and cobalt
at midnight. They imagine rivers
that take us years to discover.
They paint the pepper-scent
of globe mallow. They keep
the past, and mine the present,
for us: in sweeping sepias,
ochres of mesas; keep
the honor of a 40’s Conoco;
renew the four-room cottage
and paint it like the sky;
they let the faces rise
from clay so that we can
almost hear the voices;
they smooth a bowl
with the scent of earth
on their fingertips,
maybe to keep the curve
of a wild arroyo close.


This town has a feisty grin
and humble shoulders.

This town bets on rain,
for a community garden,

loves the violet shadows
on cloud-crowded days.

It feels the rush
of big-horned sheep,

feels the ripples between the tongues
who still speak great-grandmother’s
Slovak, Spanish, Italian, Greek.

This town has a fine espresso
you can sip
at Happiness Within.

This town carries
a hint of juniper
the canyon lifts
downwind, on your
evening walk, as you watch
another happiness becoming,
new breath rising like
old-country pastries,
warm, tangy, seeded,
in our lighted windows.
– Nancy Takacs
*Helen Zeese Papanikolas