new jersey

by Laura Kochman

I'm simultaneously working through both Eleni Sikelianos's The California Poem and Cheryl Strayed's Wild, thinking about statehood and homeland and the mapping of the self and how lucky for them two to be writing about California, this big / fertile / varied / brightness. It's that place across the country where people go to be dreamers, the endpoint in imaginings. Me, I'm writing about/to/from New Jersey, the kind of place people leave to go to California. CA is big and important and beautiful, and NJ is small, kind of cruddy and specific. I'm realizing this sounds like a complaint, but it's not—I'm learning, from this contrast, how to write about place in a different way. I don't begrudge California. It's just that writing such a personal thesis has made me think about how I create my self in these poems, in relation to my small, cruddy homeland. And the extent to which I have created my own homeland, because really, it spins around and won't settle, won't let me see it clearly, just a blur in the lens. [Me / Mom / Miriam happy on Halloween in California, during the four months we lived in San Diego]