This fall, the Indiana Arts Commission announced the addition of 30 poets to Reverse, the state’s digital poetry archives – including four from Michiana.
INverse is a collaboration between the Arts Commission, the State Library and the former Poet Laureate Adrian Matejka. The goal is to preserve a wide range of Hoosier poetry for future writers and readers.
Two of this year’s preserved poets are from St. Joseph County, one is from Elkhart County, and one – Steve henn – comes from Kosciusko County.
Henn is an English teacher at the Warsaw Community High School and since he was a child he always wanted to write.
“I guess that helps you process things,” he said. “But really, most of the time I just try to be entertained and entertain others. I just write the poems I want to see.
Henn’s poems deal with heavy themes, such as grief and fatherhood. But they are also funny and sometimes use a typical rural dialect.
He said it’s these kinds of touches that make Hoosier’s poetry worth preserving.
“If you’re from Elkhart, South Bend, or Fort Wayne, there are certain elements of your perspective – or certain elements of your experience – that cannot really be replicated by the poets of New York or California. “said Henn. “It’s part of what you share as a poet – what it’s like to be a working Hoosier.”
Nancy botkin, a poet from St. Joseph’s County, agrees. She said it’s “ridiculous” to think you have to live in a “fancy town” or “cool state” to write poetry.
“Art is happening everywhere,” she said. “People think you’re going to write about better things if you live in a cosmopolitan, hip, and up-and-coming city when there are things to be said in rural America. There are things to be said about small towns and the people of small towns.
Botkin has taught creative writing at IUSB for almost 30 years. She’s retired now, but old habits die hard – her writing process still has an academic rigor.
“Often the poems don’t just come to you. Poems come by working hard, ”Botkin said. “You have to take different paths that don’t always work until you get something that you think you can work with. It’s a rewarding process, it’s a frustrating process, but the important thing is that kind of rigor you need to be an artist.
But, all poets are different – Jim Charpentier, from Elkhart County, follows a somewhat more spontaneous process.
“I’m on call for my poetry roughly 24 hours a day,” he laughed. “And I have such a strong desire to take my random thoughts – which can be very random – and explain them in verse.”
Carpenter said he tends to write every day, however, and often in one place.
“I’m going back to the woods on my own [and] put there with a pad of paper and hot tea, ”he said. “It just lends itself to the solitary function of writing.
And writing can really be a lonely endeavor. Corn Aaron Quist, another poet from St. Joseph County, said Michiana has her own poetry community – you just have to find it.
“I know a lot of times I feel like there aren’t a lot of people who have the same interests or enjoy writing,” Quist said. “But again, I have attended many open mic parties in the area. And every time I go there, I’m always amazed at how many people go there and read. It’s more common than you might think.
Quist said that’s what he wants people to take away from his poetry if they ever find it in the state archives – a sense of community.
“That their experience is not so lonely,” he said. “Maybe they can recognize something universal in it. Something strange, it’s – it’s familiar, in a way strange, but very foreign at the same time. “
Poets who wish to submit to INverse are encouraged to do so between February 1 and April 30 of each year.
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