Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Stegner house: the ridge above the town
* * *
A good day. Stegner's Wolf Willow after breakfast, the strange familiarity of being inside the town & the house written so well in the book. I'm also surprisingly familiar with his broader historical swathes, as Winnipeg was the starting point for many of the movements/peoples/politics that wound up in the Cypress Hills.
Then a complete revision of the Edisonia I composed for this year's May Day Poetry Project. This latest cluster of Edison-focued poems were all based in his childhood and somehow got written from Edison's point of view as opposed to that of his daughter, Dot. Who is my way into the project, my preferred stance....
I don't know if I'm being ungenerous to Edison or that I want to avoid playing puppetmaster for such a monumentally well-documented figure, but having him narrate his stories felt...wonky.
While I was writing the poems, however, another character emerged: Michael Oates. He was a recent immigrant from Holland to Michigan and was the Edisons' hired boy. Eventually, he worked for the much younger Edison in most if not all of his schemes: market gardener, candy butcher, newsboy, printer.
Michael had already narrated one poem of the bunch, The Ballad of Michael Oates. As I drove out to Eastend on Sunday, half out of my head with logistics and lack of sleep, it occurred to me that he could have the rest of the poems too.
(And that was the only real thought I had before a thunderstorm stopped me in Regina...)
So I spent the early afternoon swinging the camera around. And then, vaguely sore from spending half the day in a computer chair, I bolted from the house and set out for the stretch of hills nearest me.
I got back in time for a visit to the Eastend Museum, and, after that, a stop-in at a community picnic sponsored by the chamber of commerce.
(Interestingly, the man at the bar who told me that they were "low-class" and only had "cold beer" when I hopefully asked after a G&T turned out to be the mayor. He later spoke at quite a clip about the need for newcomers to Eastend, the new subdivision they're building, etc. etc.)
(He also lied. They had caesar makings, including celery salt and Worcestershire sauce but not including limes and celery. They did let me take as much ice as I wanted, an important consideration in the unventilated Kinsmen clubhouse.)