Poet Trevor Ketner’s 2 weeks in the country
When I can escape the city, you’d better believe I will. I’ve lived in New York City for two years since moving with my husband so he could attend graduate school. It seemed like the kind of thing a poet would do, should do even. So many poets and writers made New York a central part of not only their careers, but also who they are. I thought perhaps I might get a feel for why Frank O’Hara and Patti Smith loved this city. But the city, like all things will in time, has changed since then. There are no more Greenwich Village lofts with affordable rent to be split six ways with your other unemployed, artist friends. There are no throw away jobs to work for a few months and quit whenever you feel the need to get out of the city. New York, the new New York, is a place that holds you in it like a whirlpool. So when I can get out of it I feel lucky.
As I took the bus out of the city, instantly, my shoulders relaxed. Suddenly my senses all opened up—as if spring, as if blossom. Coming through the hills and swaths of goldenrod I thought very little of the work I planned to do at Saltonstall. I write a great deal in the city, but I rarely get a time to look over, to care for, to shape early drafts and I knew two weeks away from the city and my full-time job, and the everyday responsibilities you don’t realize accumulate into massive amounts of time, would allow me to get my head on straight enough to look at the work in front of me. And it did. I’ve polished three chapbook manuscripts and a full-length manuscript I’ve been working on for years. I know so many poetry fellows sent out the manuscripts that would become their first book from Saltonstall. Maybe it’s luck, but I’ve always believed luck shows up for those who show up first.
I’ve spent large portions of my days here simply appreciating the stillness and the quiet that seems sewn into the very landscape of this place. There is a way this stillness reminds me how human I am—makes apparent how the city gets us clicking along like fleshy little machines, how it sets a rhythm just a bit too fast to keep up with. But, I believe, it takes a human to write a poem worth reading, something that will swell in the heart, or cut through the fog that sometimes settles in the brain. I’m very grateful my time in Ithaca has allowed me to slow to a human pace. To breathe. To sit and watch nothing happen at all. – Trevor Ketner