Poets on Place: Tales and Interviews from the Road

Poets on Place: Tales and Interviews from the Road

Poets on Place: Tales and Interviews from the Road

Poets on Place: Tales and Interviews from the Road


Out to see America and satisfy his travel bug, W. T. Pfefferle resigned from his position as director of the writing program at Johns Hopkins University and hit the road to interview sixty-two poets about the significance of place in their work. The lively conversations that resulted may surprise with the potential meanings of a seemingly simple concept. This gathering of voices and ideas is illustrated with photo and word portraits from the road and represented with suitable poems. The poets are James Harms, David Citino, Martha Collins, Linda Gregerson, Richard Tillinghast, Orlando Ricardo Menes, Mark Strand, Karen Volkman, Lisa Samuels, Marvin Bell, Michael Dennis Browne, David Allan Evans, David Romtvedt, Sandra Alcosser, Robert Wrigley, Nance Van Winckel, Christopher Howell, Mark Halperin, Jana Harris, Sam Hamill, Barbara Drake, Floyd Skloot, Ralph Angel, Carol Muske-Dukes, David St. John, Sharon Bryan, Donald Revell, Claudia Keelan, Alberto Rios, Richard Shelton, Jane Miller, William Wenthe, Naomi Shihab Nye, Peter Cooley, Miller Williams, Beth Ann Fennelly, Natasha Trethewey, Denise Duhamel, Campbell McGrath, Terrance Hayes, Alan Shapiro, Nikki Giovanni, Charles Wright, Rita Dove, Henry Taylor, Dave Smith, Nicole Cooley, David Lehman, Lucie Brock-Broido, Michael S. Harper, C. D. Wright, Mark Wunderlich, James Cummins, Frederick Smock, Mark Jarman, Carl Phillips, Scott Cairns, Elizabeth Dodd, Jonathan Holden, Bin Ramke, Kenneth Brewer, and Paisley Rekdal.


All books start as ideas, but Poets on Place started as a choice to leave one life behind and to go in search of another. My wife and I had great careers. We had worked hard for them, had been busted and broke during our early years, but now I was a writing program administrator, and she was a sales executive for a network-owned tv station. We had worked hard for almost twenty years, and we loved our jobs and the life we led. But we lived in ten different places during that time, and when we both eased into our forties, we started wondering about another move, one not predicated on a job. We thought about taking a look around the country and seeing everything we could.

We had the fantasy of drifting around and starting a business in a pretty little town on the water. a bed and breakfast, maybe. I wanted a place where you could have poetry readings and live music. My wife wanted to make soup (but not salad) and cookies (but not cakes). I thought maybe a Laundromat would be easy to own, but my wife wanted to know who’d fix the dryers. I wanted to open a radio station, play all my favorite songs, and hire college kids for pennies to run it when I wanted to sleep. My wife wanted to know who was going to clean the bathrooms. We kept the fantasies to ourselves. There was always something a little secretive and naughty about our desire to break from the real world.

A move from Texas took us to a suburban community outside Baltimore, Maryland. When house prices began to skyrocket and our neighborhood boomed, the fantasies gained new life. a neighbor sold his three-year-old house for twice what he bought it for, and we began to do calculations in our heads. How much time and space would that money buy us?

We liked where we were; it was a nice bustling suburb, near two big cities (I worked in Baltimore and my wife commuted to D.C.), but it wasn’t really home. We had never found that place. We were visitors wherever we went, never afraid to go on to the next stop. in some ways, home for us was always somewhere else. Home could be anywhere we slept that night. Home, really, was just with each other.

We don’t have kids; our dear fourteen-year-old Boston terrier had recently died, and so we just thought we’d go and see what there was to see. It became a real thing, this fantasy. We could investigate the red and black and “blue highways” of the big country and see if we’d stumble across a place that held a deeper magnetic resonance for us than all the other places we’d lived in in the past.

But we couldn’t just sneak off in the night. We told our families and friends. People told us we were brave. We liked that at first. But after a . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.