Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, and the Southern Tier all hang onto the moniker of the Northeast by their fingernails. In my story, “The Half King,” I describe Western New York and Rochester as “disturbingly close to Ohio.” New York is part of both the Northeast region and the Mid-Atlantic States. I thought I grew up on the East Coast; it wasn’t until I left for college that I realized my mistake. (New England lets you know they are the oldest, they are the coast.) New York: we are the only state whose borders touch both the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean…to read more click here for my most recent essay for the Kenyon Review.
Stone sculpture on the beach in Tiverton, Rhode Island. Thinking about impermanence, beauty, and change this summer.
My reading, on August 21, 2014, dedicated to my friend and MFA grad school classmate, James Foley (1973-2014). The event took place at Roc Brewing Company as part of Writers & Books’ Get Lit Crawl (Rochester, NY). Your writing and life touched so many people, Jim. We will always remember you with the love and spirit you embodied. There is only love.
Get Lit Pub Crawl Photo Credit : Ivan Ramos
“Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you are destined for. But do not hurry the journey at all.” –C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.
For the last 19 years, while living in New York City, Massachusetts, Iowa, and Rochester, I have regularly visited friends in Ithaca, New York. This past spring I also taught selections from The Odyssey and thought about that other classical Ithaka. After months of planning (to find a weekend that worked for both sets of my friends and for us), my fiance and I finally drove to Ithaca, NY, last weekend. It was a relief to have an easy getaway in a summer that has been unexpectedly busy with our engagement ceremony, family and friends visiting, writing projects, and some of our own longer travels (to visit family and for a wedding).
My MFA thesis, a collection of stories called Ithaca Is Never Far, deals with the search for home– both cultural and geographic. The title story is a retelling of The Odyssey from Penelope’s point of view. It was also, for me, about growing up in Western New York State–a place often considered at some remove from New York City, other East Coast cities, and anything cosmopolitan. Although I resented the idea of New York State as some sort of culturally remote backwater when I was growing up, after living in NYC myself for six years on and off across 10 years, it is sometimes challenging for me to be back here.
I miss the caffeinated buzz of the city–a constant electric hum–, its diversity, my friends and family who still live there. Devouring all of Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York (a birthday present from my friend Sally) in one sitting a few weeks ago made me miss the city even more.
These days, I am not able to get back to New York as often as I would like. (My last trip was a one-day whirlwind visit in April to give a reading at the College of Staten Island with my friend, fiction writer Stephen Schottenfeld.) I try to appreciate what is here, including the quiet charms of my hometown: great restaurants, ridiculously easy commutes, friends I have known for years, my 91 year-old grandmother, a good job with kind colleagues, a lower cost of living, the natural beauty of places like Ithaca. And I met my fiance, also a native Rochesterian, here.
I don’t know where the future will take me–whether I will settle down here or if Rochester is one more stop along the way. Cavafy’s poem reminds me to be patient, to not hurry the journey.
I’m just back to the world after a beautiful five-day artist residency at the wonderful Blue Mountain Center in the Adirondacks. It was a transformative opportunity to connect with other writers, artists, and activists, and a welcome chance to disconnect from the internet and the everyday demands of our jobs and lives.
I was especially grateful to have time to reflect and write at the end of my first year teaching at a new school.