To the young poet lost: Learn to look for inspiration in unexpected places. Yes, Lewisburg is small, but it is also a magical town where surprising adventures and unexpected treasures wait for you, hanging from the trees or nestled under the concrete.
Wander downtown and let your mind drift; turn an afternoon stroll into a Burroughs-esque color walk or a roving dance party or a quiet, transcendental celebration of nature. On just such an occasion I stumbled upon a small community garden tucked away on Walnut Alley (if I remember correctly) with benches that overlook the Susquehanna. I remember spending many, many hours here, tucked away under some leafy branches, listening, thinking, writing, not writing; I found myself returning to this spot, often unconsciously, wanting to know it well, from all angles and in all its temporal iterations. I fell in love with that space– both the actual garden and the insect-buzz inquisitive mental space it opened for me– and eventually I wrote a long piece inspired by a large plaque that protruded from the flora, which explained that the garden had been planted for and dedicated to the memory of one Mariah Quant. If you’d like to know who she was, what happened to her, or what will happen when you encounter the buds and shoots that bloom in her name, go, head toward the water, and find out.
Or, if you’re in need of something less organic, less intimate, more tangible, take a trip to the Roller Mills Antique Center– it’s the massive brick building on St Mary’s Street, down by Rt 15. There are more booths and corridors and secret rooms than you’ve ever imagined, and in them more food for thought and poetry fodder than you’re likely to find anywhere else. If, like me, you agree with Walter Benjamin’s belief that each object has a life and a past, a story that it carries within it, then you’ll immediately recognize why a place like this is so spectacular. Yes, it’s fun just for shopping (beware the fantastic array of antique jewelry!) but it’s also chock full of things, strange bizarre and wonderful things that are just crying out to be written about. For some of the best (and weirdest) stuff, head down to the basement: a giant fish mounted on the wall, top hats worthy of Lincoln, rusty and outdated kitchen tools, boxes and boxes of old photographs, or a suitcase full of hair (I kid you not, one of my fellow Junies found this)… it’s all there, ripe for the picking. And hey, even if your literary spirit is not moved, you will at least have a blast just looking around.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about these two places is that even though I was a student at Bucknell, I did not discover these amazing spots until I took part in the June seminar, that is, after I had already graduated. I like to think that these places were waiting for me, for the time when I needed them, and was ready to fully appreciate what they had to offer. They shaped my experience and still shape my memory of that time… during that June, I found something I had not expected and incredibly, I was able to take it, assume and consume it, and carry it with me.
So go. Meander. Open a door, turn a corner. The thoughts, the phrases, the poems are waiting.