It's possible all the writing I've done over the years has been in some way a response, a pushing back against the isolation and loneliness I felt at sixteen, driving an endless loop between home and school and work, speeding through the rolling country 'burbs of southeastern Wisconsin. There, a farm. There, a subdivision. There, a snowy field. Lots of trees. Another farm. Another subdivision. Endless fields. Growing up in this landscape my edges were smoothed; I was shaped. For me, this landscape was so cold, isolating, lonely. Constantly, I seek warmth, body, connection; I seek community, conversation.
To some degree, all of us here are shaped by the landscape, by the way the highways bend, by the way one watershed tilts towards the lake, another to the river, and by all the cold and snow this winter. And yet, each of us inhabits a landscape uniquely our own, built of our own experience. We are Wisconsin-born, -bred, -rooted, but we live alone in our own version of wherever we are. And Essay Daily, this #Midwessay project, what are these but elaborate feelers, searching, finding, sharing, celebrating a coming-together? I'm not sure I care all that much about what a Wisconsin essay is or isn't. I just want to hear your voice, your thoughts, your stories. The Wisconsin essay is whatever you say.
- Craig Reinbold
We'd love for you to join the conversation. Reach out @craigreinbold // craigreinbold[at]gmail.com
A Palmessay in D Minor
The Wisconsin essay is a fugue in D minor, is a lonely dream of the East Coast, is a vertical right hand palm (a palmessay), is a love line (from Marinette to Eau Claire), is a life line (from Green Bay to Madison), is a bloodline (from the Battle of Wisconsin Heights to the Bad Axe River Massacre), is a Ley line (cutting from Duluth to Chicago) & a medicine wheel (near Campbellsport in Fond du Lac County), is an effigy mound (Eagle Heights, Picnic Point & Observatory Hill), is a Pheasant Branch Conservancy (haunted by ghosts of French settlers in the northern sector), is a lake (Lake Mendota frozen in winter, Spider Lake before the great divide, Devil's Lake swimming drunk underwater), is a magnolia blooming in the Arboretum, is a family farm (staked & claimed & passed down for generations), is a vortex (Roche-A-Cri & Aztalan) & the birthplace of Georgia O'Keefe (2405 County Highway T southeast of Sun Prairie), is a House on the Rock (poussiéreuse & démodée), is a modern King Lear at the American Players Theatre, is a cornfield, a birch grove & a horse pasture in late summer, is a blood red maple & a cold north wind in October, is a Driftless Area (Black Earth) & a snowy November deer hunt in the old Lucey woods, is a rope swing at Salmo Pond & a poem written by Otto for Jacinda & her beautiful mother, Clare, is a mountain (Blue Mound & Trempealeau with a broken off band of Cahokia Mississippians traveling up from Missouri), is a ruin (the Melchior House Brewery on Sullivan Road), is a powwow (Lac Courte Oreilles, Black River Falls, HoChunk Nation), is an Ellison Bay clearing, windblown cedar & smooth, round stone, is a young painted turtle caught at Long Lake, is a goose hunt on Horicon Marsh & a thrift shop on State Street, is a Harley Davidson factory in Milwaukee & a sober party in Racine, is a top of the world in Ashland, is a Lake Superior & the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, is a tourist trap in Hayward, is a cemetery (Forest Hill), is a boat ride on Lake Pepin, is a country bar in Centerville (with signage saying: free beer tomorrow), is a technical college & a University of Wisconsin, is a bratwurst & a slice of cheddar cheese, is a river (Wisconsin, Saint Croix, Fox & Mississippi) is a Red Cedar Trail & a Great River Road, is an Oven's of Brittany & an O'Cayz Corral, is an organic co-op in the city of Viroqua, is a dairy cow & a shuttered strip mall, is a Curtis Prairie restoration, is a library in Menomonie overlooking the lake, is a lover in Hudson & a solitary drive at dusk from River Falls to Spring Valley on Highway 29 with Wisconsin Public Radio on.
Jody Kennedy's writing has appeared in the Bennington Review, Fugue, Fairy Tale Review, Anomaly, DIAGRAM, and Tin House Online, among others. From Madison, WI, she lives in Provence, France.
What is the #Midwessay? What is the Midwest? What are the characteristics, if any, of the #Midwessay (the Midwest essay)? What gathers us together? What pulls us apart?
Springing from a twitter conversation, we started asking writers and readers what they imagine (or would like to reimagine) as the Midwest and the Midwessay. The #Midwessay is a series of reports from the Midwest (whatever that is) by and/or about Midwestern essay and essayists (whatever those are). Essay Daily will be publishing these, sorted (loosely) by state, in February 2021 and beyond. These #Midwessays will be collected here and on a separate site at a later date. If you'd like to submit a report / essay, send it our way. Details and coordinators for each state are listed here. You can also ping Ander (link at the upper right) if we don't list a coordinator yet for your state. —The Editors