Wick Poetry Center News
Bisbee Student Writer Reflects on ExperiencePosted Sep. 6, 2011
The project I worked on in Arizona was a nonfiction piece about mowing the lawn at my mother’s house and a reflection on the loss of my father at a young age. It didn’t occur to me until later that it was a love poem to Ohio as well, grounded in the landscape of the place I am from. Mowing lent itself as a metaphor for grief, and the specific terrain of the yard, the difficulties of pushing the mower on our steep hill, fell into place as extensions of that organic analog. It seems to me that features of the environment unique to a place do special work in relating the things that happen to people there.
The opportunity to change my surroundings and travel to a unique place like Bisbee, Arizona, with a small group of talented writers was, to me, invaluable. The change of landscape spurred my imagination and encouraged me to write as it did the others. The other lucky participants were Bobbi Maiers, Lauren Vachon, Sam Allard, and Katrina Pelow along with our instructor, Maggie Anderson, all of whom are beautiful writers with unique and thoughtful perspectives on writing. This year’s workshop was a little different than years previous due to complications brought about by wildfires in southern Arizona. We had the pleasure of staying in the charming antique Bisbee Grand Hotel in downtown Bisbee. Quaint, themed rooms such as the Bird Room and the Cherub Room tickled us endlessly. We met local characters in the saloon downstairs playing pool (I believe Katrina and I were the victors, if I’m not mistaken), we enjoyed browsing antique shops and the beautiful library, we dined with the Wick family at their home, and were delighted by their hospitality. But more than anything else, we spent our time writing. That is the beauty of this opportunity: We were given by the Wick family the time to produce and workshop writing in a stunning setting.
When I returned to Ohio, I drove from Kent to my family home in East Palestine, south of Youngstown. I took what I call the scenic route. Ten miles on 76, then an exit onto State Route 14 which runs through farms and lakes, small towns and woods. I always enjoy this drive immensely, appreciating the slow streams and piles of lazy chewing cows accumulating under roadside trees, behind fences. This time, glimpsing the Mennonite churches and swaying corn and green majestic trees was like hugging my mother. I had forgotten, or not really forgotten, but not consciously ever put into thought the plain idea that this landscape, my landscape, is not the same one everyone the world over knows and loves. Of course, I know that flora, fauna, and geology are different in different parts of the country, but I’d never stopped to think Ohio is unique. The place I love is mine. It is special. Where I’m from isn’t just recognizable cross streets and the houses I grew up in or the school buildings or baseball fields of youth, but the trees which coddle me, the grasses which tickle me, and the farms and the hills which lull me.
I did good writing in Arizona. Everyone did. For that time and opportunity, we are eternally grateful to the Wick family. Much of the writing we did was about places dear to us, places which make us who we are. I am thankful for the chance to gain some perspective on my place, to appreciate this landscape again.
—Jack Shelton Boyle, Wick graduate fellow