Anyone who has ever flown over the Midwest knows those patterns of township and field, perfect little blocks that define the region from the air. It is precisely this vision of the Midwest, this vague perception as repeating squares of leftover and flyover, that Michael Martone addresses in this remarkable collection. Twenty-five of the Midwest's best poets, fiction writers, and essayists combine their talents in a quilt of original essays that begin to piece together this vast region, square by square.
Townships establishes the Midwest as an important center of creativity, a region to be noted for more than corn and prairie and neat, square patches of land. The reverberations in sensibility that make their way through these essays speak to all midwesterners and to all those for whom a sense of place is a source of inspiration.
Contributors Carol Bly, Marianne Boruch, Anthony Bukoski, Amy Clampitt, Susan Dodd, Stuart Dybek, Paul Gruchow, Philip Levine, Mary Swander, David Foster Wallace, and Ray A. Young Bear, among others, have written about a specific township of childhood or a bordered region that defined a first notion of place in the world. Raymond Bial's striking and evocative photographs are a perfect complement to this diversity in writer and subject.