I’m in Chattanooga, TN this morning, after a whirwind weekend, that included poetry and stories, teachers and students, workshops, and old haunts, and lost loves, and healed wounds, and inspiring conversations, and good food, and cheap beer, and nice wine, and thunderstorms, and late-night cab rides, and strangers, and books, and several languages. Feeling deeply happy and overwhelmed to discover that sometimes, sometimes, sometimes…
You CAN go home again.
It was nearly 20 years ago that I turned up here, with my trunk-of-a-life and a handful of poems, and no idea how I wanted to live or who I wanted to be. I only knew that that I wanted to do it loudly, honestly, with a lot of energy. Maybe too much. I was young. God, I was SO young. There were no cell phones, or email addresses. I didn’t have a computer. I didn’t have a clue.
But I found myself part of a community here that read and wrote, and fought, and talked about words, late into the night. Staged plays, made paintings and sculptures, played music. The UTC Creative Writing Program and the Meacham Writers’ Conference are a huge part of what made this place so special in those years, but they’re only part of it. I’m not sure how, or why, but the students here are more than a “program.” They are such a community, and the range of writing is so great. And the quality so strong. Maybe it’s something about the isolation of it, the mountains and the river, the beauty of the place. Maybe it’s Rick Jackson and Earl Braggs, and the other newer faculty I’m lucky to be getting to know.
Probably it’s an alchemy of all these things.
But it is good to come back, and see that this place is, in fact, special. Not a memory I’ve washed over with nostalgia, but a real memory, of something unusual and memorable and worth it.
I love this place. I love these people. There is something about this town that is different. I don’t live here anymore. I guess I don’t belong here anymore. I’ll probably never find a way to live here again.
But, I think.. there’s still a place for me, maybe, now and then. A small one.
It feels like that, anyway.