From: Writing Place, the Place of Writing
1. It’s easy to agree, given the context, with Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream when he claims that poets give to airy nothingness a local habitation and a name. This perspective implies that stories (and plays and lyrics) are born in imagination but then have to be grounded in reality – location, location, location, which includes everything from locution to lactation to locomotion. Place has to be rendered, and I’m constantly reminding my students to set their stories in consistent, precise, specific and credible sites, attending to matters of architecture, weather, flora, fauna, custom, labor, religion, root and fruit, music and vernacular and recreation. I continue to believe it’s valuable, if incomplete, advice.But more and more I find myself asking them about their own indigenous locale, not just the latitude and longitude and traffic patterns, economics and ethnic mix, but the taste and smell of it, the harmony or cacophony of its resident sounds and the music and food, politics and the color of the air. After all, these are elements that I have to keep reminding myself about, as well, concerning my present, past and imagined stomping grounds, the authenticating grit, ribbons of mist in the valley, raccoons scattering garbage and neighbor children shrieking past sunset in their chlorinated pool. The dead honey locust outside my bedroom window and the bluebird that sentries there. “From” is often a connotationless connector, but it is a “preposition,” a word which displays “position” for all to see. Whenever I get back, either geographically or imaginatively, to one of the few places I know in my bones and can say, “I’m from here,” I feel a surge of creative strength, perhaps like Antaeus. I’m in position to do something.