Anyone who has ever flown over the Midwest knows those patterns of township and field, perfect little blocks that define the region from the air. It is precisely this vision of the Midwest, this vague perception as repeating squares of leftover and flyover, that Michael Martone addresses in this remarkable collection. Twenty-five of the Midwest's best poets, fiction writers, and essayists combine their talents in a quilt of original essays that...
Anyone who has ever flown over the Midwest knows those patterns of township and field, perfect little blocks that define the region from the air. It is precisely this vision of the Midwest, this vague perception as repeating squares of leftover and flyover, that Michael Martone addresses in this remarkable collection. Twenty-five of the Midwest's best poets, fiction writers, and essayists combine their talents in a quilt of original essays that begin to piece together this vast region, square by square.
Townships establishes the Midwest as an important center of creativity, a region to be noted for more than corn and prairie and neat, square patches of land. The reverberations in sensibility that make their way through these essays speak to all midwesterners and to all those for whom a sense of place is a source of inspiration. Contributors Carol Bly, Marianne Boruch, Anthony Bukoski, Amy Clampitt, Susan Dodd, Stuart Dybek, Paul Gruchow, Philip Levine, Mary Swander, David Foster Wallace, and Ray A. Young Bear, among others, have written about a specific township of childhood or a bordered region that defined a first notion of place in the world. Raymond Bial's striking and evocative photographs are a perfect complement to this diversity in writer and subject.
The Midwest, says Martone (editor of A Place of Sense ), has never had a distinctive regional identity. To redress that situation, he invited 24 of the area's best writers to focus on its townships, six-mile-by-six-mile squares arbitrarily defined by government surveyors. Unfortunately, everything about this volume seems arbitrary. The editor decided by fiat which states composed the region (Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa), and no unifying bond is ever revealed. As Martone himself asks, ``what links the autoworker in Detroit with the actuary in Des Moines?'' What does Ray A. Young Bear, writing poignantly about his tribe's creation myth, have in common with Anthony Bukoski relating his passionate attachment to the Superior Bay wetlands? What does Carol Bly, learning about a blond-haired Jesus in Duluth, share with Deborah Galyan, whose black high school teacher taught her about Joseph Conrad and about life in Bloomington, Ind.? The reader may recall Gertrude Stein's remark about Oakland, ``There is no there there.'' Photos by Raymond Bial not seen by PW. ( Feb. )
Midwesterner Michael Martone is the author of three collections of stories, Alive and Dead in Indiana, Safety Patrol, and Fort Wayne Is Seventh on Hitler’s List. He is associate professor of English at Syracuse University.
Photographs by Raymond Bial following page 120 Correctionville, Iowa: An Introduction / Michael Martone 1 At the Edge of Town: Duluth, Minn. / Carol Bly 14 The Quiet House / Marianne Boruch 21 Water Plans / Anthony Bukoski 26 Providence / Amy Clampitt 31 Rummage / Susan Dodd 38 You Can't Step into the Same Street Twice / Stuart Dybek 43 Bloomington, Indiana, in Conrad's Light / Deborah Galyan 48 Where I'm From-Originally / Joseph Geha 56 Rosewood Township / Paul Gruchow 67 Jefferson Township: The Land That Made Me / James B. Hall 83 When the Bough Breaks / Susan Hauser 92 The Landfill of Memory, the Landscape of the Imagination / C.J. Hribal 95 Active Voice / Ellen Hunnicutt 109 Townline / Verlyn Klinkenborg 117 Beaver Township, Bay County, Michigan / Howard Kohn 121 Entering Poetry / Philip Levine 126 Quake / Susan Neville 132 None of Us Went Back / Lon Otto 140 The Township Argo / Michael J. Rosen 146 After the Flood / Scott Russell Sanders 157 West of Eden / Mary Swander 165 Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley / David Foster Wallace 172 On Being out of Control, or How Townships Made Me a Pinko / Michael Wilkerson 192 In the First Place of My Life / Ray A. Young Bear 198 Notes on Contributors 207