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Poetry and Place: the In-Between Space in Which we Write about Home



Some of my favorite poems are about particular places that don't necessarily have historical meanings. Poets like Ted Kooser, James Galvin, and Walt Whitman are constantly writing in their locales and it enters the poem either subtly or, sometimes, even obviously.


I have lived in Statesville, NC for most of my life. I used to loathe living here. Maybe it was my teenage angst that propelled me beyond and into the world where I wanted to explore more nuanced and luxurious locales. Maybe it was my restlessness in yearning for a place where I felt more at ease and comfortable as the US Southern States, I'll be honest, are polite in mannerisms but harsh on differences if it isn't the norm historically. Things take decades to change here. For example, my town sometimes feels like its stuck in the 1990s in architecture besides the historical district. Things take many years to develop and update here; however, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It just is the way the region grows and develops.


I want to take the time to say that sometimes poems help us understand our place in the midst of our own home towns. Poems like "Wildwood Flower" by Kathryn Stripling Byer do this for me. Frank O'Hara's "Having a Coke with You" does this for me. Edward Abbey's nonfiction book Desert Solitaire does this for me as well.


Sometimes, our gaze upon our physical place in the world is limited by our connections to it. But, sometimes, we can see the miracle of this world, where we grew up, and see these places flow through us into our character and mannerisms.


One of my favorite poems is Richard Wilbur's "Love Calls Us to the Things of this World" and it is because of the miracle in the mundane. That we even have nouns and things at all. People. Places. Life is filled with an infinity of possible outcomes and people, places, and things that makes poetry the art of real actualization.


May we love our small towns. May we love our locale and locals. May we feel blessed to be raised in such small, homely spaces that we become, ourselves, part of the backdrop and important to the ones who know us.

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