Sarah Wylder Deshpande: “I grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, the recreational vehicle manufacturing capital of the world. It’s an industrial town with two rivers, the Elkhart and the St. Joe. I spent my childhood exploring rivers and abandoned factories and riding trains. I live outside the Midwest now, but I miss the wide-openess of landscape and driving along the highway with cornfields on either side, always being able to see the horizon.” (twitter)
Todd Davis: “I was born, raised, and have lived in the Rust Belt for 52 years. The first eighteen years of my life were spent in the factory town of Elkhart, Indiana, playing basketball and football and dreaming about the deep forests in upstate New York where I’d visited to backpack with my father and uncle, places that seemed otherworldly, so green and with water we drank directly from streams flowing out of the sides of mountains. After that, I lived in northern Illinois for seven years, then another six years in Goshen, Indiana, and for the past fourteen years I’ve lived in Pennsylvania, ten miles north of the dying railroad town of Altoona. Because of these places, notions of decay and injury can be found in my poems, and poets like Jim Daniels and Jan Beatty have been important in showing me ways to write about what matters here. The small village of Tipton where my house sits is near 41,000 acres of game lands. I hunt and fish in what seems to be an imitation of those first forests I encountered in upstate New York, planning my escape into their creases. But even in the most remote places in these 41,000 acres I can’t escape the legacy of the Rust Belt: acid mine drainage from deep tunnel mining and strip mining for coal creates ‘kill zones’ in the forest and makes some of the streams sterile. I suppose I hope that my poems offer a glimpse of the good in these places while not flinching at the harm we’ve done to the land and to each other.” (website)
Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco: “The fact that Roy Moore has not (as of this writing) left the Alabama Senate race despite the fact that he is almost certainly a sexual predator, coupled with the fact that he still stands a good chance of winning, inspired me to write this. In some ways, my experiences with predatory men have been pretty minor—I’m lucky. But everyone I know has had experiences like these (or much worse), and this is a huge problem. Also, this is not even a comprehensive list of what I have experienced. I feel like we need to keep talking about this. It makes me so angry that being a sexual predator doesn’t preclude one from holding office. It means that people who vote don’t think this matters.” (book)
“Prodigal Son Returns to Warren, Michigan” by Jim DanielsPosted by Timothy Green
PRODIGAL SON RETURNS TO WARREN, MICHIGAN
The air stings but you get used to it. Were always used to it. Buried it in your lungs at birth in anticipation of today. Dark comfort. Burning oil. Leaking transmission fluid. Exploding antifreeze. A lot can go wrong and already has. That’s the darkness. The comfort’s buried behind the garage. Cigarette smoke—trying to quit. Lifetime hobby. Like collecting LSD stamps. Marking stale beer kisses on your warped globe. Thumbnail bruise slowly making its way to the top. To be released. Good luck with that bruise on your heart. Life in Warren. Backfire misfire. Deliberate fire. Shotgun arson. That hiss leaking out that globe or a spray can sending another inscrutable message. Night breaks glass. Day keeps peace. Peace on loan from the bank. Interest on a ticking clock. The bank, a robot hooker. Hydrant full of trick questions and fake water. Air stings. You sting it back. The invitation lost in the mail with the lost children. Welcome home, soldier. Have we got a minimum wage job for you! No burned bridges. Our bridge takes you to Canada, that girl you always liked that was too nice for you. Ribbons and curls and a mean big brother. Forgot to wipe your shoes on the way out of town—you follow the smudged footprints back. What were you thinking, leaving? Like the senile dog, barking at the wrong door to get back in. It happens. Night is different here, spiked with acrid fear. Fists just lumps in your pockets. Nobody’s built a hill yet—uphill and downhill, relative terms. Related by marriage. Separated by birth. Blinded by the lack of light. The absence of an acoustic guitar. The dance of electric shock. One word for gray—hundreds of shades of it. Comfort, one word for it. Rungs on the ladder: imaginary. Leak in the roof: real. Basement nightmare-flooded. Cocaine cut on a ping pong table. Behind the eight ball. Beneath the cue stick hammering down. It’s all coming back. Blood on an empty dress burned down the neighborhood, but it’s still here. Just needs a jump. Got cables? Gentlemen, start your engines. The air stings with old spit and large betrayal. Rust-mobiles rattling and mumbling their damned prayers. Transportation specials. Dark comfort dome light glow. Somebody getting in, getting out. Idling. Flashers on. Adjusting mirrors. Emergency. Waiting for someone. Maybe you.
Jim Daniels: “I have spent my entire life in the Rust Belt, born in Detroit, and living in Pittsburgh for the last 35 years, with a three-year stint near Toledo in between. My writing has always been focused on place—both the literal places of blue collar towns and the ‘place’ of social class. My style has always been straightforward and direct because of the influence of these places.” (website)
Alan Harawitz: “A retired teacher, I spend about none months of the year in my native Brooklyn, New York, and the remainder in central Maine. Evenings are spent listening to NPR, then writing poetry to the sound of the loons crying at the moon.”