In the City of Wind

Article excerpt

The Summer 1975 issue was devoted to the topic "Talking American Poetry"; it was a rich conversation, drawing works from such varied writers as Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Michael Davidson, Nikki Giovanni and Howard Nemerov, Robert Pinsky and Charles Wright. We've included several works from that issue in this anthology.

Dave Smith was one of the writers included in the issue. SMITH recently wrote to us to discuss both of the poems reprinted here. Of "In the City of Wind," Smith writes:

The poem was urged by my awareness of the migration of my fellow Southerners from their Appalachian backgrounds to the auto industries and jobs in the Northern Midwest, a typical American flight toward what seemed to be opportunity for happiness and a promised dream. As often happened, the speaker seems to have found that dream not to exist and the American promise turns out, for many, to be only hypocrisy and illusions. Doubtless, the poem was also urged from my first experience with Michigan, when in 1973-1974 I lived in Kalamazoo while teaching at Western Michigan University. Chicago seemed to me then the arch-villain city, a billow of dreams. Now I see it as a vibrant, exciting intersection of American culture. Perhaps it was, and is, a little of both.

"In the City of Wind" was published in Smith's collection Cumberland Station (1976) and in his The Roundhouse Voices: Selected and New Poems (1985); it will also be included in his forthcoming Floating on Solitude: Three Books of Poems (1996). Timothy Erwin, editor of Chicago Review during this period, has written a brief memoir of meeting Smith in Chicago; it appears in the final section of this retrospective issue.

Smith also Wrote to us about his poem, "Driving Home in the Breaking Season," which has subsequently appeared in Cumberland Station:

In April of 1974, I was doing a Poets-in-the-Schools visit at Saginaw, Michigan's Douglas MacArthur High School. My wife and children had gone ahead to visit relatives in Houghton, Virginia, during the Spring-term break. When I left Saginaw to join them, departing at night during a snowstorm, I somehow took the wrong interstate and wound up headed northeast and had to take a divergent route near Altoona, Pennsylvania, to go south toward DC and then home. I was very sleepy and would stop for naps at rest stations along the way. When I woke in Virginia at morning light, I felt I had left a literal world of cold and darkness to enter one of warmth and light, like a reverse migration of Southerners who went north for a future. …