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Townships written by Michael Martone

 

Townships written by Michael Martone

Overview:

It would not seem so important for southern writers to justify writing about the South--that region is defined. Midwestern writers, however, must first define their region, inhabit it, so that writing about it through fiction and poetry will become as natural as it is for writers in other necks of the national world. Townships seeks to prepare the ground for that work, using the very ground itself as a starting place. Each contributor--the list includes Carol Bly, Marianne Boruch, Anthony Bukoski, Amy Clampitt, Susan Dodd, Stuart Dybek, Deborah Galyan, Joseph Geha, Paul Gruchow, James B. Hall, Susan Hauser, C. J. Hribal, Ellen Hunnicutt, Verlyn Klinkenborg, Howard Kohn, Philip Levine, Michael Martone, Susan Neville, Lon Otto, Michael J. Rosen, Scott Russell Sanders, Mary Swander, David Foster Wallace, Michael Wilkerson, and Ray A. Young Bear--has written about his or her specific township of childhood or a bordered region that defined a first notion of place in the world. Complementing this diversity in writer and subject are Raymond Bial's striking and evocative photographs, a visual essay that echoes the sensibility of the township with grace and precision. 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.

Synopsis:

It would not seem so important for southern writers to justify writing about the South--that region is defined. Midwestern writers, however, must first define their region, inhabit it, so that writing about it through fiction and poetry will become as natural as it is for writers in other necks of the national world. Townships seeks to prepare the ground for that work, using the very ground itself as a starting place. Each contributor--the list includes Carol Bly, Marianne Boruch, Anthony Bukoski, Amy Clampitt, Susan Dodd, Stuart Dybek, Deborah Galyan, Joseph Geha, Paul Gruchow, James B. Hall, Susan Hauser, C. J. Hribal, Ellen Hunnicutt, Verlyn Klinkenborg, Howard Kohn, Philip Levine, Michael Martone, Susan Neville, Lon Otto, Michael J. Rosen, Scott Russell Sanders, Mary Swander, David Foster Wallace, Michael Wilkerson, and Ray A. Young Bear--has written about his or her specific township of childhood or a bordered region that defined a first notion of place in the world. Complementing this diversity in writer and subject are Raymond Bial's striking and evocative photographs, a visual essay that echoes the sensibility of the township with grace and precision. 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.

Publishers Weekly

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. )

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