If you’ve been a close follower of Write A House since 2013, you may have noticed we did not give away a home in 2017. And if you’ve been an even closer follower, you may have noticed we did not even finish funding or giving away a home we promised to Detroit poet Nandi Comer in 2016. It’s been both our hardest and our most rewarding year, and I’d to talk about where we are now we reflect and look ahead to 2018.
We wanted to share with you what our writers in residence have been producing over the winter to spring season. (Those are in fact, generally two season, but this year in Michigan they felt like one). We began this program as a very open-ended fellowship. We found emerging writers whose work was strong and growing, and asked them to come make more of it. That's all. We didn't set a schedule or an amount, we just waited to see what would happen.
Nothing can ever prepare you for being told that you’ve just won a house. Nothing ever prepares you for moving to Detroit, either. It is not the kind of place you can understand from afar. It’s not the kind of place many people want to take the time to understand, anyway, whether they live 15 minutes or 1500 miles away.
Liana and I decided to try a collaborative literary experiment: choose a topic that we would both explore from our different vantage points in Detroit. Although we only live a couple blocks apart, we seem at times to be confronting entirely cities, communities, and cultures—and certainly from different sets of experiences. To further explore these differences, we chose to open our experiment by writing about gardening. If you’d like to participate, we’d love to read links to your thoughts, too.
The largest town nearest to where I am right now is Mynämäki, Finland, which you have certainly never heard of, but which is maybe 30km away from Turku, Finland, which you are slightly more likely to have heard of, but, let’s be honest, still probably haven’t. I am at an artist’s residency program that sits on the former grounds of Saari Manor. It is named for the days when this place was an island surrounded by the Baltic seabed—saari means island—although those days ended over a thousand years ago, when the water receded and the land emerged.
Every city has ghosts, but some have more than others. Detroit is one of those places. When you have a city with such an incredible and tragic past still reeling from issues and challenges that impact a vulnerable population, spirits will linger. The truth is that in order to really appreciate and understand Detroit, you need to go looking for them. They're not hard to find here - every building, park, street and community has a story to tell that goes beyond the surface. If you care enough to listen, the ghosts reveal themselves. Sometimes, they find you instead of the other way around. This is what happened to me on a recent Saturday morning.
Someone (OK, it was me) has fed my cat Bengali food and now, when he smells it cooking, he meows out the window toward the neighbor’s house, running to me if I move or change positions or even glance up from my desk. Anne, someone is cooking my lunch! is what he believes he is communicating. We’d better go see if it is ready, together, here let me get the door!