Ben Schubert: The Poetry of Place Show and Tell

One month ago, our group spent eight days on a segment of the Green River in SE Utah, floating nearly 75 river miles. Canoeing the rhythmic waters of the Green’s Labyrinth canyon revived a once forgotten joy I have for reading, writing, and sharing poetry. With child-like excitement I was reminded that water is a powerful analogy and metaphor of time, life, and human expression.

Throughout the week our surroundings invited self-reflective practices into our writing assignments. One of the week’s goals was to individually create a ‘Poem of Place’, which would culminate in a group reading at week’s end.

As each member our crew shared creative verse, haiku, free-form, and song form poetry, I saw the incredible meaning that was derived from our recent and common surroundings. I had known my peers only one month at the time, but in that moment I felt our collective presence and passion, our intimate yet endless surroundings, our unspoken memories but understood pasts, and an acknowledgement of our relationships with place and identity.

Hearing the raw, immediate products of my peers was beyond powerful. Our common themes reinforced water’s analogous interpretation with examples of a dam as a life obstacle, the impoundment of water as the infringement of human rights, and riparian ecological restoration as the hope and renewal of character.

During this semester’s third section on the Green River, I learned why I love poetry. It is emotional with no exclusions: introspective, regretful, profound, comical, sexual, mournful, joyous, hopeful, and ambiguous.

These emotions are enriched with individual meaning, and their meaning is inherently tied to place.

This was no assignment, and far more than a poem, rather a personal testament to my growth as a human and my adaptation to the growing world around me.

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“Variations on Red”

by Ben Schubert

Canyon Country isn’t only red,

Look closer…

Canyon Country hosts all colors, intensities, transparencies.

The moon’s luminescent glow fills shapes with deep gray and purple,

The morning’s entrance graces walls with magenta violet and gold,

The sun’s angles rays bring shade across burnt orange and tan faded strata,

The afternoon’s clear and cloudless blue sky above vivid riparian green,

Canyon Country is more than vibrant sensory bliss.

 

Canyon Country isn’t only red,

Again, look closer…

The absence of human language does not silence emotions.

This place can speak, never evoking itself,

The river offers immediate reflection, the land slowly invoking self-perception,

These canyon walls and rock layers idealize patience,

These colors are metaphoric, contrasting life’s cyclical trance.

This place, more yourself than foreign.

 

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