Thirty years ago, at the age of thirty, I left New York, where so far I’d drawn my every breath, to move here to Ohio. My family, who all still live on the East Coast, regarded it as a temporary aberration, a misfiring of the synapses–they knew I did it for love of a man, not a place. Secretly I agreed. It was a temporary move, I was sure, a little sojourn in the land of cursed sports teams and hulking steel mills.
Now the scale is evenly balanced–half a life here, half a life there–and gently, inexorably tipping toward Ohio. Plenty of rust, yes, as well as some insanely large, aggressive red squirrels. But also, here in Cleveland, the crooked river, the great, impetuous lake, the thundreheads that mass above it on thrilling winter afternoons, and people who work hard without expecting any praise for it, always vote for library levies, know good food, and can dance. This is one of Cleveland’s best kept secrets–everyone here can dance, I’m not kidding!
On Friday night, Ohio honored five of its many writers. This is the beautiful award they gave me, and dang if I know why the photo won’t rotate.
And this is me talking with Arnold Adoff, poet, raconteur, husband of the late genius Virginia Hamilton, and all-round man of wit and wisdom. He was honored, along with Kacy Cook, for Virginia Hamilton: Speeches, Essays and Conversations. My friend Laura Walters, whose upcoming book is Living Arrangements, was also honored, though my camera refused to take any good photos of her and me, so please check out her website, wwww.lauramaylenewalter.com, to find out more about her.
And last of all, here are some lines from a poem by David Young, whose volume of new and selected poems was honored. His work is wonderful, both down to earth and shot through with a humble, joyful awareness of things much larger than we are, and while Ohio is his adopted state as well, his work embodies this place very very well. This is from The Man Who Swallowed a Bird:
“But when we saw him again in the
half-dusk of a summer evening
he was a different man. His eyes
glittered and his brown hands
lived in the air like swallows;
knowledge of the seasons lit his face
but he seemed restless. What he said
almost made sense, but from a distance:
Once I swallowed a bird,
felt like a cage at first, but now
sometimes my flesh flutters and I think
I could go mad for joy.”