LEAVING APPALACHIA: Overlap in Poetic Landscapes by Julia Paganelli

Leaving Appalachia

LEAVING APPALACHIA: Overlap in Poetic Landscapes
by Julia Paganelli

In August, I stuffed my summer dresses and cooking implements into a Toyota and trekked eighteen hours from Appalachia to the Ozarks. I’ve been tallying the difference between the mountain ranges.

  1. Appalachia is older than the Ozarks—cliffs softer. More oil painting than chiseled sculpture. 

I’ve been reading up on architecture. In the book Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture, Rowan Moore writes, “Where things get interesting is when desire and built space change each other, when animate and inanimate interplay” (19). Of course, Moore is referring to the architect and her structures, but I’ve approached these theories otherwise. I’ve approached as poet to landscape.

Moore states, “Architecture is experienced as background or not at all” (91). An architect fails when she creates a place that cannot be added to by he who lives there. Landscape is meant to be lived into, as are poems.

  1. Appalachia is tied to coal mining and shale drilling. The Ozarks aren’t tied to one particular natural industry.

When earth is wholly flat, I panic. I do not know which highways will take me away from here, but I can stand over the city, lights blinking. Here goes the topography of my mind: mountains are mountains. Ozarks, staunch with maples like flags, tessellate in my head with Appalachia, staunch with same trees. Appalachia is a tesseract away—and I know my way from Appalachia. I’ve puttered down through Maryland in a death trap with a clown alarm. I’ve curved Delaware, radio crackling with static. Mountains are undertow states away from an ocean.

  1. Therefore: Appalachia is meant for burning while Ozark rocks are meant for scholar’s study.

In poetic landscape, we write a world to overlap with ours. Bedouins and other travelers create habits to be homes—to find “ways to rearrange the bewildering world” (52). In order to master a landscape, nomadic peoples seek to find commonalities in their places. It is in this overlap that home is created.

It is in this overlap that we are able to carry truth of reality into truth of alternate and written worlds. It allows me to find overlay between two mountain ranges. It allows me to get back to the people of my past. And the reader joins me, home a rucksack, carrying his landscape into mine.

Julia-PaganelliJulia Paganelli is a first-year Poetry MFA candidate at the University of Arkansas. Her poetry chapbook, Blush Less, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in Spring 2015. Her recent publications can be found through BOAAT Press, Chautauqua Literary Journal, and Connotation Press.


Work cited: Moore, Rowan. Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture. London: Picador, 2012. Print.
Image credit: Brad Hammonds on Flickr


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