Tuesday, October 13, 2009


by Christopher Cocca

I’m workshopping the first parts of Milton County Power & Light this week.

Did you know that there’s a Willa Cather Memorial Prairie in Nebraska? I didn’t know they named prairies after anyone.

“As I looked about me I felt that the grass was the country, as the water is the sea. The red of the grass made all the great prairie the colour of wine-stains, or of certain seaweeds when they are first washed up. And there was so much motion in it; the whole country seemed, somehow, to be running.” – Willa Cather, My Antonia

Is your work tied to place? Mine is. Mountains, rust-belt ruins, green and yellow fields in alternating bands, small cities, little towns, Cold War suburbs. A valley. Some rivers. A beach and a sound.

One of my earliest literary memories is of my grandmother reading the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder to me when I was as young as 3. I remember one scene specifically about a lost doll partially frozen to the ground in a fallow cornfield puddle. I hadn’t connected these early experiences to my own vocation before, but this image, 27 years later, is vivid, and our own setting, the bi-level in Whitehall near the old cement plant.

What are your places?


  1. Berkeley and St. Petersburg, Russia.

  2. My work is very tied to the Shenandoah Valley.

  3. I'm very tied to place as well (and also, some of my earliest fiction memories are of the "little house" books as well).

    My place is Ohio - cities, small towns, country roads, abandoned houses, wooded hills, muddy rivers. Now I'm in PA, which isn't that much different, but it's somehow easier to write about a place when not fully immersed in it.

  4. I should hope to be so lucky as to have a prairie named after me!

    I don't know that I have a place, really. I have always struggled to write poems with clear settings, but instead I turn to recurring themes and images.

  5. The Finger Lakes, especially Keuka, where I grew up. I have to agree with Emily, too: I tried writing about my hometown when I still lived there, but it didn't work. You need distance, I think.

  6. I to have to have some distance to write about certain things, which is probably why the landscape of my childhood is still prevalent in a lot of my poetry. The inter-coastal water way. ...etc

  7. If I talk about the Idaho sun in one more piece... lol Yeah, I don't even do it on purpose.

  8. I used to live in Nebraska (Offutt Air Force Base) and I wonder what else besides a prairie could they possibly name after someone? lol

  9. 2nd the Finger Lakes. For me though, it's Cayuga Lake. More recently it's been the New River and Blue Ridge Mountains. Seamus Heaney has a great essay called "Writing Home" about the poetry of place, specifically the poetry of one's childhood stomping grounds.


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