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‘Went to Tennessee’ by Caroline Wilkinson

— Reneé Bibby

I visited Los Angeles over Labor Day weekend. Visiting the concrete, sun-seared fizziness of L.A. made me think of land, of city and homescapes. Caroline Wilkinson’s poem, ‘Went to Tennessee’ came across my desk with wonderful literary serendipity right after my return.

On my visit, people asked if I was scouting out L.A. as a place to live. While I found L.A.’s bigness, its over-sized sunglasses chic really fun to see, nothing about it sang to my soul the way the big sky, saguaro scuzziness of Tucson does. I found it hard to explain my feelings to people from L.A. without waxing poetic about Tucson or critiquing L.A—risking either provinciality or derision. I couldn’t come up with a satisfactory answer to the question beyond a simple no, not leaving Tucson, but Wilkinson has managed what I could not. Why we love where we live is intensely personal and Wilkson captures that intensity of love without turning the poem into an ode to a specific city; she may mention the identifiable landmarks, but what she captures is the bigger idea of leaving a city, a community, landscape that we love. Maybe next time I’ll bring Wilkinson’s poem along and when people ask if I’m planning to move I can share it, explaining, no, see, this would be me.


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