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Benjamin Landry explores the power of belonging and mysteries of the wild

Apr 21, 2015

Benjamin Landry
Credit Sara Schaff

Our series "Poetically Speaking," highlighting Michigan poets, continues. 

Benjamin Landry completed his MFA in creative writing-poetry at the University of Michigan and is a research associate in creative writing at Oberlin College. His collection Particle and Wave (University of Chicago Press), was shortlisted for the 2015 Believer Poetry Award.

Landry's poems “Shelter" and "Bunyan" are from a manuscript titled Mercies in the American Desart ("American Desart" being Cotton Mather's term for the literally and spiritually perilous land in which the early colonists found themselves upon arriving in North America). 

"The manuscript explores the ambivalent notions of the many ways in which we can feel both lost and found. 'Shelter' posits a few ways –  some humorous, some anguished –  in which we carve out homes for ourselves, or otherwise talk ourselves into feeling that we belong," explains Landry.

On writing "Bunyan," Landry provides this insight: "I started with the idea of the myth of Paul Bunyan, which, of course, is synonymous with a very conventional, heroic –  some might say hubristic –  sort of power. I wanted to make him powerless, in the way that Tinkerbell disappears if children no longer believe in her. The trick was to strip him of his power while maintaining a certain degree of empathy for him.  In the end, the poem is not so much about Bunyan as it is about our contemporary estrangement from true wildness." 

"What's nice about [these poems] appearing side by side is that they both incorporate forests, which are compelling places for me, places of darkness and light, anxiety and refuge,” Landry says.

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