In April 2011, the International Writing Program launched " Writers in Motion", a study tour of the Mid-Atlantic and the American South, where eight international writers are exploring the theme of "Fall and Recovery." The writers are traveling to Gettysburg (April 3-5), Baltimore (April 5-6), New Orleans (April 6-8), the Gulf Coast (Morgan City, the Achafalaya Basin, Lafayette, April 8-11), Birmingham, AL (April 11-12) and Washington, D.C. (April 13-15) to examine some of the challenges presented by historical crises and upheavals, both natural and social.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
I'm in transit now, somewhere over northeastern United States. Arrival in Baltimore is still up ahead, as is New Orleans and the Atchafalaya Basin, and Birmingham, which held such sway and sadness over my imagination when I was a teenager studying the American civil rights movement. I'm hoping to find "the things which no chart can tell us," as James Baldwin so beautifully wrote. For me, a Canadian, America arrives like a step-brother, a worldly-wise, belligerent young man with Harvard dreams, who calls you late at night and speaks wistfully of all that is slipping from his grasp but, in the morning, forgets to wish you happy birthday. We know him like our own (he sends a great many letters, his certificates hang on our walls) and yet he isn't. But that hasn't stopped us from reinventing his late night stories, and being proud of the home we've made which is also free, also grand. Like Vicente, I, too, find my thoughts pulled away to events in Japan and Libya, and I know those images and histories will continue to impose themselves on the places we experience over the next two weeks. It's Baldwin, I think, who is my beginning guide, who understood that "we must find the terms of our connection, without which we will perish." Through fiction and the imagination, he tried to examine the lives of others, and through this examination, this proximity, express something about the meaning of what we are living.