August 1993, Indiana
Here in the Ozarks, it has been a deliciously rainy March, with promises of the same for early April while the Bradford pears have led off the blooming pageantry amid the greenest of grasses.
For those of you who have read the previous newsletters, then you’ll know that I’ve been writing about my life (and writing life) in a loose, chronological way. This installment brings us to my time in graduate school at Indiana State University in Terre Haute.
In the spring of 1992, I lived in Albuquerque with two wonderful, smart, female friends in an old Victorian home near downtown (a much different downtown than it is today; it was rougher, wilder, hippier then). We had a big ole front porch, and there were lots of good times at that house with friends and neighbors.
I was doing the things one would expect of a young poet: reading poetry and religious texts (like the Bhagavad Gita), enjoying the biography of Mahatma Gandhi, bolstering my vegetarian ways, working odd jobs, drinking wine, listening to both grunge and punk music, writing some, and trying my best to thrive in a love relationship.
Deep down, I knew I wanted to become a better writer though I wasn’t sure if it was poetry or fiction that I was after. One afternoon, a mentor from my undergraduate days called me and inquired what I was up to. He encouraged me to apply for graduate studies at Indiana State, which I did. On the phone, my mentor said, “You could learn a lot by studying poetry with Matt Brennan at Indiana State.” He was right.
I spent two years in Terre Haute where I learned much. Always a rural boy at heart, I enjoyed the landscape there, which included this miracle of corn in August, that I’m apparently enthusiastic about in the photo above.
The poem below, “29 August,” is based on an experience I had once—in awe of the flowing corn around me when I stopped to admire it one day on a drive.
This poem is still rough by my strict critical standards now—but in the poem, I can see a writer becoming. That opening is pretty strong. The taffeta dress is an interesting metaphor although I leave the analogy and don’t return (a no no!). I like the terseness of the poem to imply the simplicity of the human being trying to understand nature (which the narrator cannot). And this is a nature that is here and then it isn’t (as Annie Dillard eloquently describes via the flash of a deer in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, if you need a nonfiction nature-appreciating fix).
It's April, so it’ll be a while yet that Hoosiers and Ozarkers see corn come to fruition. Yet it is the time of seeds and rebirth. Happy April to you!