Between Cornfields and K-Marts: Documenting the Stories of the Miami Valley of Ohio through Poetry

I’ve grown up thinking of my home state as unimportant. I’m from Ohio. Specifically, the Miami Valley region. All we have is endless cornfields on rolling hills. Soybean fields are interspersed. A lot of beige. Having lived in that same place for eighteen years, I thought there was nothing to appreciate. But after taking a class about the history of the U.S. South, I started to think about the uniqueness of Ohio in comparison to how other authors described their homes. In an effort to increase my appreciation, I’ve decided to research the history of my hometown, Cedarville, Ohio, and four surrounding cities (Dayton, Springfield, Yellow Springs, and Xenia). I plan on exploring their histories through my local libraries and public museums. After researching their history, I will be interviewing local residents to gain insight on their opinions about these places. Hopefully, those interviews will give me stories about their experiences growing up in different places geographically, culturally, and socioeconomically. To find people to interview, I will be going to local restaurants, caf├ęs, churches, museums, parks, record stores, etc. to find people who know what it is like to live in those areas. I want to learn what these people have learned through their life experience.

Following that research, I will be writing poetry in response to what I have learned. The poetry, I hope, will express the communal feelings of each city and the different opinions of interviewees. So far, I plan on writing ten poems. There will be two for each city: one about the historical perspective I gained from research, and one about the cultural perspective I gained from interviewing local people. Through my poetry, I will try to tell the stories of those five cities, as varied as they are. With some success, I should be able to bring those ideas back to campus next fall to show people that Ohio really isn’t that bad.

Comments

  1. Michael Parker says:

    I think this is a brilliant idea! You benefit from learning more about the history and culture of these places so close to home, and everyone else benefits from you adding your work to the cultural heritage of these towns. Hopefully your poems pique the interest of younger generations to look back at the smaller details that define their hometowns. I know the town where I grew up has huge books consisting of numerous editions of the local newspaper bound by year. My mom and I went through some the 1940s and 1950s editions and it was absolutely incredible to read about my grandfather. Perhaps some of these places have similar collections of their newspapers from decades ago. You may not find out anything spectacular, but reading about the minutia of weekly news could really help you set the tone for your poems. Good luck!