Time manifests differently in South Dakota. The form it most often prefers is the shape of corn, stretching in rows across every direction, everywhere. You can drive for twenty minutes in any direction in any part of any town in the state, and eventually you will encounter the odd, liminal space of dirt-torn roads splitting down soon-to-be-ethanol corn by the mile.
This particular configuration of time means that it’s hard to write. Writing operates on urgency. I find my own poetry in the specific, mercurial alignment of global catastrophe, personal apotheosis, and regional disquietude. Poetry seeks to contain this volatile conjunction in a few stanzas– several lines.
I found it more difficult than ever to capture these fleeting intersections in time when the terminal condition of senior year came upon me. That, and the stifling rural character of where I live (South Dakota), did peculiar things to my grasp of time. What did impending global catastrophe matter when I had to ask teachers for their recommendations? Why track the passage of my personal apotheosis when my general application awaited amending? Any “regional disquietude” wallowed in so many tons of corn that I couldn’t bother excavating what remained.
I think perhaps corn and high school both foment a sort of lateral myopia when it comes to time; on either side, it becomes harder to see the gradual progression of events. Technology has helped us remain aware, but so much digital content is designed to alternately pacify and aggravate consumers rather than inform and present the troubling events of the “real world.” Then again, what is real? Sometimes heartbreak is no less critical than the assassination of a distant former president. Sometimes the making of a few new friends trumps climate change, and sometimes a difficult discussion with your mother carries more weight than even extinction.
My advice, I think, is very simple: poetry is personal. There is of course a certain obligation to pander towards apocalypse, but personal armageddon works just as well. Poetry can reflect modern crises, but more often than not does the lens of self tinge it all in a particular shade of blue, or celadon, or pink—it really doesn’t matter.
Problems arise all around us with staggering indifference, the only distinction is that we—our own egos—personalize certain deaths, certain celebrations, failures, and conditions. It is difficult to track every event. What matters most is that you write about the events that impact you, that leap out with an exquisite abandon from rows and rows of corn.