Place and history in my poems

How does place and history play into my poetry? Place is in my blood. I trace it from 15th cent yeoman farmers in the Yorkshire Wolds and immigrant-laborers from Norway mountain valleys to migrant farm laborers crossing North America and homesteading in South Dakota and Saskatchewan on their way to the Upper Skagit River Valley. For fifteen years, my wife and I gardened a “Birchwood acre” in Bellingham, WA, living, to a degree, my father’s dream of owning and working land. Several years ago, Alaskan writer Nick Jans complimented me on the relationship of people and land in my poetry. Recently, Jack Nisbet, who writes about interrelated social and natural history of the Columbia River drainage, called me “a poet of landscape.”

My interest in history began with Mrs. Marjorie Baughman, my upper grades teacher in two-room Rockport (WA) School. Every Monday morning, she shared her Seattle P-I with us. Miraculously, to me, there were always books on history in the box of library books that arrived each month on loan from the state superintendent’s office. This interest continued through graduate study, teaching, travel, and into my poetry.

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