As promised, I’m announcing the release of my latest published poem, “Snake River 1986,” in Subprimal Poetry Art’s Origins and Destinations issue. The poem is a semi-mythical, earth-centered take on the theme of belonging/foreignness that runs through some of my work.
Growing up in an Army family has always made the answer to the question, “Where are you from?” sound a lot like a Facebook relationship status: It’s complicated. I often want to respond, “What are you really asking–where was I born? Where did I grow up? What place do I call home?” I was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho; I did most of my growing up in Augusta, Georgia, and would consider that my hometown; but, to be honest, I get just as homesick for Germany (where I lived for a total of five years as a kid) as I do for those other places. I feel deeply connected to each of those places but, at the same time, detached from them. I am from many places and from nowhere. Which I think is why the Japanese concept of ukiyo, “floating world” — the sense of impermanence and detachment from a place — strikes me so strongly. While the Tokugawa-period term refers to pleasure-seeking societies detached from the real, natural world, it’s expanded for me as I struggle to attach to places that have defined me and yet do not, in some ways at least, belong to me.
Don’t misunderstand — I don’t regret the lifestyle of my childhood, even if it has made me feel lonely for a sense of rootedness from time to time. It was a gypsy kind of life, one that gave me an opportunity to meet many kinds of people and see quite a bit more of the world than most of my peers. It has allowed me to be fearless when faced with change and the unknown, to be eager to confront Otherness and being an Other. I feel more alive when I’m in a strange place, and I get restless living in one city or town for too long. It’s made me adventurous and strong.
Still, I sometimes find myself yearning for a place where I belong, where the culture is intimate to me and embraces me, that expresses what Wallace Stevens observes in his poem “Anecdote of Men By the Thousand”: “There are men whose words / Are as natural sounds / Of their places / As the cackle of toucans / In the place of toucans.” I don’t know where my words are natural. Maybe they are in some place. Maybe not.
The theme for the issue, Origins and Destinations, addresses “places we come from or are going to… work that deals with traditions, transitions, trials, tribulations, things that are part of our all too human identity, legends of the past, visions of the future.” There’s a lot of strong work in this issue, and many of the poems (including my own) include audio of the poet reading with complementary light, ambient music. I am proud to have my work displayed there, and I hope you’ll check it out. There’s a comments section at the end of each poem — leave a note! You can also leave your thoughts here.