Post 4 of 4.
When you’re a writer living in Maine, it’s hard not to write about Maine. Or at least have Maine infiltrate your writing somehow. It seems I have always written about this state, and whether or not that’s implicit in the writing itself, it’s always clear in my vision. I see it most in the seasons: I’m always centered on one particular seasonal setting or the other. Certainly there are seasons in other states, but Maine is just better at them.
I have mostly been writing about Maine indirectly, but recently, I’ve started to confront it directly. I just got back from hiking the 100-mile wilderness (the Appalachian Trail which stretches between Monson and Baxter Park) on a grant to write a few poems about the experience. Being in such a preserved wild area has really rejuvenated my appreciation for this state. It says a lot about this place that along the entire Appalachian Trail, Maine is the only area where there are 100 miles uninterrupted by any sort of civilization (major roads, towns, stock stores, etc.). This might seem lonely to outsiders, but most Mainers I know don’t feel isolated—somehow, they feel empowered by it. That might be one way to characterize Mainers. As for myself, the older I get, the more I want the wilderness, the natural landscape. The older I get, the more I’m drawn to the north. I like Portland as much as anyone, but I doubt many people live in Maine to be apart of some urban lifestyle. Literature has always seemed to praise nature, and I feel that sense of praise whenever I’m these wild, rural areas of this state.
I grew up in the southern tip of the state, but my family had a small cabin in a remote part of central Maine, and so I have had a pretty diverse sampling of Maine. Every new place I visit here offers a new angle or dimension to that Maine culture. American writers have been defined by their attention to place and landscape and what aspects such things tell about a character or a piece. Furthermore, how does living in Maine specifically affect the way we think or see the rest of the world, and inherently, the way we write? I’m not sure I know the answer to that, but one thing, I’ve never wanted to live or write about anywhere else.
Jacques Rancourt is a Michael D. Wilson research scholar at the University of Maine at Farmington and a contributor to the recently released Best of the Web 2008 anthology (Dzanc Books). He’s currently writing about a recent trek on the 100-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail. He is one of several authors guest-blogging today in support of the Best of the Web 2008 anthology.