I have visited Salt Lake City several times. When you get on the Interstate near the airport and head East towards Salt Lake City, you see “Cheyenne, Wyoming” on large signs framed against the nearby mountains. I have always been tempted to disregard my immediate purposes and just keep on driving towards Cheyenne. Now I will get my chance.
Wyoming is featured in A JOURNEY THROUGH LITERARY AMERICA through the stories of Annie Proulx, a former resident of Laramie, Wyoming, who has since moved on to other pastures. One thing I am looking forward to experiencing for myself are the long sightlines. As Proulx told Charlie Rose in an interview, “When you can stand at your kitchen sink and look out your window and see a hundred miles down the road…you’re ‘on the beam.’”[i] She says that Wyoming is her writing place: “You go into it and it’s almost as if you were trailing a little cord behind you, plugged into the side of the mountain.”
Researching Proulx led me to Owen Wister as well. Wister, a sickly young man, fell in love with Wyoming on a trip out there and wrote one of the most popular cowboy novels ever published: THE VIRGINIAN, about a cowboy and gentleman in a wild West that was vanishing even in Wister’s lifetime.
I’ll report back on my findings from on the road.
From the Introduction to GOOD POEMS FOR HARD TIMES, collected by Garrison Keillor, who recently broadcast his first “Prairie Home Companion” since suffering a mild stroke earlier this month:
People complain about the obscurity of poetry , especially if they’re assigned to write about it, but actually poetry is rather straightforward compared to ordinary conversation with people you don’t know well which tends to be jumpy repartee, crooked, coded, allusive to no effect, firmly repressed, locked up in irony, steadfastly refusing to share genuine experience….Forget everything you ever read about poetry, it doesn’t matter–poetry is the last preserve of honest speech and the outspoken heart.
I do agree what the good man from Lake Wobegon says, though I like to take my poetry with some mysteries in it that take time to unravel. The poetry featured in A JOURNEY THROUGH LITERARY AMERICA — that of Rita Dove and of Robert Frost — provides two good examples.
Now, if you google “Thomas Hummel” you will come across some very obscure verse. Some quite, if I may quote from Keillor again, “twittery and lit’ry” stuff. Those lines were not produced by me. In fact, there is another Thomas Hummel. He is a poet. It is as though I had some Doppelgänger, and it had decided to get an MFA.
Just a disclaimer, in case you ever happen upon the other Thomas Hummel and wonder which is the real me…
[i] Interview with Charlie Rose, June 3, 1999