A Winery in Nebraska
Since it's been nearly a week since I'd driven more than three miles at a time, a Saturday road trip was in order. After consulting my map and several pamphlets on local attractions, I pointed my car south and headed down Highway 75 toward Brownville, Nebraska. It's a tiny town shouldering the Missouri River, but one with a big and rich history. As with most river towns here, Lewis and Clark figure prominently in that history, but more recently, the town has become a haven for art galleries and bookstores. They're located along the town's main street in old, old brick and frame buildings. Being a bookstore addict, I visited several and came away with a now out-of-print poetry book, Collecting for the Wichita Beacon, by William Kloefkorn, a terrific Nebraska poet.
I took my new book down the road to the Whiskey Run Creek Winery. I bought a glass of chardonel and took it outside to the deck where I read poetry, listened to the waterfall and watched a cardinal tangle with a worm. The winery's main building is a 100-year-old barn that was moved 18 miles to its present location in 2001. Take a moment and click on the link above to read the entire history and view pictures of the move.
Driving back, I crossed the river into Missouri and took Interstate 29 into Iowa and then west on Highway 2 into Nebraska. Three states in thirty minutes . . .
When does a poem end? And how will it end? In fire or in ice . . . oh, wait, that's the world. But back to those questions. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard "this poem isn't finished yet," I could pay my Sprint bill for the next year. That's a lot of nickels. And that's why, from 9-9:50 on Thursday morning, I sat in with a couple dozen MFA students from Nebraska-Omaha and listened to Bill Trowbridge's lecture on poetic closure, aptly entitled "Are We There Yet?" He started by relating the story of how, when he was a kid, his father hated that question. Hated it. So much so that on one family trip, when they were within one hundred miles of the Grand Canyon and The Question was posed yet again, the dad turned the car around and drove all the way back to Omaha.
While this isn't an option for concluding most poems, Trowbridge did discuss ways in which poets could end poems: the lid-snapping closure, anti-closure, the snaps-shut-but-still-surprising closure. He distributed handouts with great examples and included one of my favorite all-time endings, the one to James Wright's "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota." Check it out for yourself and see if that ending doesn't surprise you just a bit.
Are We There Yet?
Almost! I'm figuring the first draft will be complete by Tuesday. I may even type up one or two of the wanna-be poems currently soiling my notebook.