Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I, Ryan of the Mountain State, To You

I'm fascinated by the return to home. Even as a kid who had no experience away from home, the mythological return was a source of constant inspiration and reflection. When I first read Whitman, extolling the virtues of his native land in poetry, I was enthralled. Here was a person who wrote about himself as a voyager headed back to himself! It was perfect!

As I grew up, I discovered that most of the work I loved was about that connection of past and present. Van Gogh painted peasants in France who looked and acted like the peasants in his boyhood Dutch villages. The title of Olson's masterpiece Maximus Poems that I stole my post title from was himself, looking at his Gloucester youth. It was all about home.

Home is that idyllic place, home is the hell you raise up from... Home is the paradise of the people or the hell of the boredom. I laughed when my Seattle friends lamented being from "boring, backwater" Seattle when I had grown up in such a tiny little town. But it was futile. It was a tiny backwater for them because of that familiarity. It didn't matter what my opinion was, or objective population statistics.

The familiarity itself is fascinating. Home is where you are loved and bathed in attention, or ignored and mocked as a freak... but it is familiar by definition. It is what you were, and where you were.

My frequent Kerouac binges also remind me of one aspect of the home that other writers sometimes ignore. Home is where the legend of your life begins. It is the primal narrative of you, the first story.

I always loved that aspect of home. "I was born.." is the cliche. But it is meaningful. It's a positive cliche in the sense that it can still carry meaning. Love it or hate it, that's the start of your story. "I was born..."

It's a fascinating thing, home. No wonder it keeps being the story we write.

I've read that early humans had a completely different relationship to home. They were nomadic or semi-nomadic, and home to them was the Earth. It was the land and the trees as a continuum, not a specific geographic locale. Certainly not a standing structure they completed. That is inspirational and amazing, and I wish I were that kind of person. But I am not. Home for me is a geographical location, with all of the love and hate and ponderous reflection that implies. It''s ridiculous and baffling. But it's true. Home is rolling hills and oak trees. I love other places and things. I prefer other places and things. But as much as I truly wish to say I come from the western spiral arm of the milky way galaxy, that would be a lie. "I was born..." still exists for me in a limited way. Like so many others.

So we write on it. I wrote my huge epic poem Un/Fettered while living in Japan, Seattle, New York... but it's suffused with home. The narrow, confined sense. The subtitle is Constructing the Wild Beggar, implying a liberation and frugality that I long for and never achieve. The accuracy of it comes from the constructing, I guess. The desire to push beyond the limited and limiting "I was born."


Volcano said...

Enjoyed your post. Made me think of this song I've been listening to on Spotify this week, Welcome Home by Rehab:

Some lyrics: (although you really have to hear the music)

What a beautiful day
Lookin back and thinkin bout the people that I'm missin
You can hear 'em in the breeze and the trees if ya listen
Some are in the ground and some are in prison
Now I remember momma hangin clothes on the line
Way back before I opened my mind
And got hip to the guilt, hard times, and fear
And I'm just damn glad to be here

Welcome home
Where the faucets drip at night
Welcome home
Where the screen door don't hang right
Welcome home

barker blog said...

love to have your books in my library.

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