“Drummond is where you can get to know everyone,” the poem says.
“Drummond is 15 trains a day”, and it “is always going to smell like dried grass”.
No, it’s not Richard Hugo. These young writers are attached to their hometowns. According to them, “Drummond is like a scoop of ice cream” and “where my family moved because it’s perfect”.
Each line of this poem was written by a fourth or fifth grader from Drummond under the direction of April Cypher, their Missoula Writing Collaborative poet/instructor.
The nonprofit group, which places writers in schools in western Montana, has produced a new children’s poetry poster project that collects descriptions from students in their towns, with contributions from more than 30 classes or schools. They each wrote a poem, or a single line. The methods varied, but they then combined them into a collage-like portrait of their community with colorful ideas.
“It’s a great way to get students to look, as an observer, at the place where they live,” said Caroline Patterson, executive director of the collaboration.
They have a “strong contingent of working writers,” she said, many of whom are well-known authors like Mark Gibbons and Chris La Tray.
They introduce the classes to the poetic form of the anaphora, where each line begins with the same sentence. Then each student writes one, encouraged to talk about “different seasons, their city’s sensory experiences, so what’s it like, what’s it like, what’s it like, and what’s it like.”
They are told to think about how they would describe it from a distance, or on another planet, or how they would relate it to someone who lives far away.
Historical facts are also welcome, or the things their home is famous for. An example that stuck with Patterson: “Lolo is Lewis and Clark not spelling mosquito more than 16 times.”
Regardless of a writer’s age level, she said it’s “the detail that drives your poem” and focusing on the details will “create a complete picture of the place” that doesn’t fall into clichés. or shorthand.
Cities include Missoula, the Bitterroot (Lolo, Florence), Flathead Indian Reservation (Arlee, Dixon, St. Ignatius, Ronan, Pablo), Drummond, Lincoln, Seeley Lake, Ovando, Potomac and a Hi-line outlier, Havre .
Children are specific enough not to be interchangeable. Ronan, for example, “is the Pizza Cafe and also lives in the woods.”
Since this is Montana, the weather is always a topic of discussion. “Le Havre is as hot as a hot dog in summer.” And winter? “Florence is colder than the cool colors that bloom like a sunset” and “Lincoln grows colder and colder as the moon rises.” The time of day, sometimes metaphorically, enters the imagery. “Missoula is a place not far from the dawn”, they say, or “Ovando is the highway that slowly wakes up”. Others tap into the feeling of a place, like this phrase: “Missoula is the feeling after beating the best team in any sport.”
One of the writers on the collaboration, Emily Freeman, did a project like this for Dixon years ago, and Patterson kept the poster on her wall for so long they decided to revive it l last fall.
Schools and children receive filled posters and they have organized readings. They are also on the poster for the Go! alleyway gallery and the Missoula Art Museum (see box “on view”).
“People really like to hear a kid’s view of their house,” Patterson said.