Having just arrived in my hometown of Sonoma for an all-too brief week where I will work and pretend to work, (and where I'll be blogging from all week!) I’ve been thinking a lot about poetry and place. Just yesterday, I drove up the mountain where my friends have gifted me with a small apartment/writing studio on their property, and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of, well, of Californian-ness (it feels a little like buzzy fantastical orange poppy dust and sweet cream butter). I was born in the Sonoma Valley, lived in Seattle for 5 years, and then in New York for 12. Now, I currently live in the psychedlic greens of Lexington, KY, and my hometown of Sonoma, CA. And nowhere else on earth has ever felt more like home, than Sonoma.
It’s hard to say how much our homes and hometowns, and places we make our homes, matter in our work as artists, but perhaps, even the most tenuous of nomad clinging to his unicycle and a copy of Kerouac’s On the Road has a sense of belonging to some place. The place where we first learned our language as poets, the idioms, the accents, the names of our trees, our mispronunciations, our street names, our dead pets and our first cars, the place where we were denied or encouraged, left dry or watered well.
In the small town of Galesburg, IL, there’s an amazing group of people who are exploring poets and place, and they are doing it by recording the most powerful tool that poets have in their awesome pockets, their voices. The Knox Writers’ House has recorded and interviewed everyone from James Tate, (“He was not menacing anyone, he was just very thirsty”) to Kwame Dawes (I promised myself simple things”). This morning I listed to Phil Levine read “The Theory of Prosody,” while I made coffee and looked out at the sun coming up over the Mayacamas. Voices travel so easily, so agile and strong, a bird without a home.
If you have a moment, on this the 22nd day of National Poetry Month, might I suggest you begin by simply listening to the poets introduce themselves and where they are living on the ABOUT page. It’s wonderful. “My name is James Galvin and I live mostly in Iowa City,” how lovely is it to hear that voice when you are anywhere in a kitchen trying to make poems out of ticket stubs and empty cups? It makes me want to introduce myself as James Galvin someday. The young upstarts behind the Knox Writers' House are excited and hungry and willing to sleep on the floor. They travel all over, on no budget at all, and have a great microphone they've nicknamed, "Baby." It's a project I deeply admire. Here's their blog, too. It celebrates the voice, and the poet, and the places where we come from, and the places we end up. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter, or just go and listen, support them by showing up to the site so they can see some good audience numbers and be encouraged to keep it up. What's better than free poems in your ears read by great poets? Not much. It's like a marvelous hometown for poets! Let's live there.