Wind in the Elephant Tree by Earl Vincent de Berge, Reviewed by Mark D. Walker


Earl de Berge’s third book of poetry is an Ode to his wife, Suzanne. Most poems are love poems or valentines to his life partner he met in college and married just after she graduated. This writer and photographer also shares memories of friends, scenes of his beloved Guatemala, aging, his legacy, and much more.

I met Earl and his wife, Suzanne, several years ago over lunch in Phoenix, discussing fundraising strategies for “Seeds for a Future,” an NGO they set up in Guatemala, which provides training to impoverished rural women on the South Coast. I soon learned that we shared a love and appreciation of Guatemala and the Desert Southwest and that Earl was also a writer and, in his case, a poet.

I was surprised to learn that he started writing as far back as 1959 and is publishing an autographical novel laced with poetry and photos about his adventures as a young man in the Sonoran deserts of Baja California, Mexico, and Arizona, A Finger of Land On An Old Man’s Hand. As a high school senior, he came across one of the best Chinese poets, Li Po, noted for his elegant romantic verse, which the author felt drawn to express to some of the various women in his life. He was soon writing about nature, the environment, cities, and social issues, and his imagination was fueled by his travels through Central America, the Sonoran Desert, and the Andes. “Everything I experience has potential for a poem—even the increasingly dreadful business of politics.”

Most of his poems are about his wife, like this one written in Tucson in 1965.

Suzanne Beguiles Me

 To me, it is the richness and

Kindness of your mind

That beguiles my intellect.

From your caring, tender touch,

My heart grasps the fullness of

From your grace and beauty.

The two combined

Are a greater gift

Then I deserve.

As with much of his writing, this book can be appreciated as a poem novel with elements of poetry, prose, and several photos that make up the author’s literary adventures. He begins the book with the image of an Elephant tree in bloom, which harkens back to his 20s when he “rough-necked my way through wilderness deserts of Mexico with several friends” and came to the realization that neither he nor anyone else “is the center of the universe…”

My favorite section of the book focuses on a place we both admire, “Guatemala and its people are dear to us, and I have written about what I saw and assessed during those years. But Guatemala is also a place where we had time to dig deeper into why we loved each other.” They purchased a lovely place on Lake Atitlan to relax and be together, only to sell it to form “Seeds for a Future,” which provides training for rural women in the region of Chocolá on the South Coast.

He never shies away from the country’s dark side, as with “Guatemala Nightmare.”

Already staggering, indigenous cultures suffocate

Beneath their growing numbers, poverty, prejudice, neglect

Poor food security and minimal health care.

Evangelicals challenge their belief in ancient gods…

And yet de Berge never loses sight of his lifelong love affair with Suzanne, as reflected in “My World is Best.”

And though our hair grows grey

And our steps shorten and slow,

Your heart and spirit stay

Entwined with mine.

The book includes many outstanding, colorful photos beautifully reproduced by the publisher, This eclectic mix of poems and stories makes for a rich literary experience and reminds us that “Finding a new language and someone to speak it with” makes all the difference in life.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ net (August 17, 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 135 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 8196316119
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-8196316112
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 7 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5 x 0.31 x 8.5 inches

 The Author

Arizona native, Earl de Berge is a writer, photographer and poet. His education includes Antioch College (BA) and U of Arizona (MA). A political scientist, he founded Behavior Research Center, created the respected Rocky Mountain Poll and was Editor for 35 years.

Writing poetry since 1959, he often focuses on his fascination with the Sonoran Desert and his experiences in Guatemala’s post-civil war years. He draws inspiration from the environment, poverty, shadows, friendship, loneliness, hope, aging, coyotes, hawks, brigands, fools, danger and death. And of course, politics. Earl’s photographs, logbooks, and essays reflecting on life experiences serve as foundations for his prose and poetry.

Earl has recently published three collections of his poems, “Alegro to Life,” “Swans to Carry Me,” and “Wind in the Elephant Tree,” which touch on nature, human nature, love, desert silence, and life in Guatemala. He is currently assembling “The Man Who Ate His Dreams,” a biography of a rags-to-riches businessman, artist, and poet; and a collection of short desert stories for young readers.

Earl and his wife, Suzanne, split their time between Arizona and Guatemala where they founded the nonprofit, Seeds for a Future, to help impoverished rural women improve their families’ access to adequate food and nutrition with home gardens and small animal protein sources.

The Reviewer

Mark Walker was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala and spent over forty years helping disadvantaged people in the developing world with agencies like Food for the Hungry, Make A Wish International, and Hagar USA. His book, Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond, was recognized by the Arizona Literary Association. His second book, My Saddest Pleasures: 50 Years on the Road, won the 2023 Peace Corps Writers’ Award for Best Travel Book. He’s a contributing writer for Literary Traveler, Wanderlust Journal, and The Authors’ Show. “The Million Mile Walker Review: What We’re Reading And Why” can be found in the Arizona Authors’ Association Newsletter, Authors Digest.  His wife and three children were born in Guatemala. You can learn more at


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