Watching a volcano erupt is something of a spiritual experience for John Calderazzo.
The Colorado State University English professor – and author of the newly published "Rising Fire: Volcanoes and Our Inner Lives" – has spent more than a decade researching and writing about volcanoes, and in the process he has become fascinated by the physical and metaphysical rejuvenation they cause and their cultural importance.
Calderazzo is an expert on the way volcanoes affect human culture, the lives of artists and scientists and the estimated 600 million people who live in the shadow of volcanoes. He is available for expert opinions and interviews, and can be reached at (970) 491-6896 or at (970) 493-6995.
"Over the long arc of time, the Earth is an incredibly liquid place," Calderazzo said. "With volcanoes, the Earth is recycling itself, literally. With every eruption, the newest earth on Earth is being created."
While visiting a Hawaiian volcano, Calderazzo had the opportunity to look through a hole in dried and hardened lava to the molten magma inside, a sight he described as the most impressive thing he had seen in nature. "It was as though the sun were poured into a river and was sliding underground," he said.
He has visited several of the world’s most famous volcanoes, including Mt. Etna in Italy (which he climbed while it was erupting), Vesuvius and Mount St. Helens. He’s watching news reports of the activity at Mount St. Helens with great interest.
"It’s a very exciting thing," Calderazzo said. "We’re seeing the natural world in action. You see the Earth coming alive and you understand why people worshipped mountain gods."
Calderazzo has been at Colorado State University since 1986. He received Colorado State’s Best Teacher Award in 1998 and a Colorado Council on the Arts Creative Nonfiction Fellowship. His work has been cited in "Best American Essays" and "Best American Stories" and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His essays have appeared in many anthologies and dozens of magazines, including Audubon, Georgia Review, Orion and Coastal Living. His other books include a how-to writing guide, "Writing from Scratch: Freelancing," and a children’s science book, "101 Questions About Volcanoes," from which his new book drew inspiration.
Calderazzo will read from "Rising Fire" and host a discussion at 2 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 1628 16th St., in Denver. Call (303) 436-1070 for more details.