Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Writing in Iowa

Writing — really engrossing writing — springs from a rich and cluttered life, fully lived. It is the bounty of experience that loads the canon of inspiration with sufficient shot to do memorable damage. But, can one glean adequate life experience from abiding among the ordered fields of Iowa? 

Many an old Iowa farmer may be found breathing contentedly from the rocker on his back porch as he ponders the meaning of life, the vicissitudes of our mortal coil, the might of Jove and the recalcitrant whims of His weather. On the other hand, many an old Iowa farmer has been found moldering in the rocker on his back porch as the crows make sport with his remains.

But, back to the point. A connoisseur will cleanse his pallet before undertaking to sample a new wine. He will savor it, let it rest in the bounty of his experience, form an interpretation, and commit his judgment to the enlightenment of others. One could not expect an impoverished lush to undertake such an intimate exposition. Likewise, critically acclaimed writers draw from the deep waters of their autobiographical wells. A dry well does not refresh. In Iowa, a shallow well, supplied by a groundwater aquifer, is likely to poison the family as they consume phosphates, organohalides, and fecal coliforms from the neighbor’s hog operation.

But, back to the point.
Good writing does also require clarity and an orderly mind. For instance, I find myself unable to undertake a writing project if my desk is cluttered. It is necessary to hide everything in drawers and boxes — putting it entirely out of sight — to begin writing productively. In this respect the environment of Iowa is ideal for my writing. Iowa is an orderly place. I just open my window and gaze out at the regular rows of corn combing regular mile-square fields, that supply parallel rows of grain towers spaced regularly along carefully aligned railroad spurs. Iowa spreads like a vast bounteous wasteland across a cosmic checker board. I can stare out my window and not be distracted by anything but my aged widower neighbor and his crows.

But, back to the point. Not every writer cherishes an orderly desk or even an orderly mind. Some writers, such as the renowned Ray Bradbury, pride themselves on the stimulating clutter of their writing space. However, I do not trust this impulse. Bradbury has described his writing process as composed of two parts: throwing up and then cleaning up the mess. I suppose that Iowa supports this writing style as well. When I want to throw up, all I have to do is open my window and inhale the bouquet wafting from any of several animal confinements upwind.

But, back to the point. Iowa, commonly known as “the land between the vowels,” has a long literary tradition. The Iowa Writer’s Workshop has the reputation of producing the cream of the “crop.” The workshop selects a “hybrid” mix of writers and poets who meet once a week for critical peer reading Graduate Workshop courses and conceivably more often for critical sampling of Iowa Pale Ale from the Millstream Brewing Co. at Dave’s Foxhead Tavern. Even writers can become connoisseurs.

But, back to the point. I love Iowa. I live in Iowa. I write in Iowa. Cluttered or clear, poetry or prose, fact or fiction, we’ve got a flock of fine folks here and I welcome you to join us. Just take care to cautiously keep clear of carnivorous crows.