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The Space and Place of Western Minnesota’s Literary Tradition, Joshua Preston & Samantha Bruno
17 Dec 2013
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I am proud to have called western Minnesota my home. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always this way. In fact, growing up in rural Montevideo, MN, I was told that if I wanted “success” and “opportunity,” I had to look toward the city. There was nothing to be gained from the land I walked upon, the community I was a part of, because (by some standards) life doesn’t begin until you’ve spent it in traffic, the sun setting behind a skyscraper rather than the prairie horizon. To be rural, I learned, was to be provincial.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned since then, it’s that there’s nothing provincial about rural sense of place and to address the “brain drain” we need to fight this misconception. It’s time that we work toward a positive sense of place that will inspire a new rural identity. Fortunately, we need not do this alone.

Using the poetry and essays of western Minnesota writers including Joseph Amato, Bill Holm, Robert Bly, and Paul Gruchow, I presented a framework for understanding our region’s literary tradition. Since I did not come discover these names until I had already went off to college, I also proposed that we strive to make their work more accessible. Interweaving my own experiences as a young, rural Minnesotan, I ended with a plea: instead of expecting our youngest to shape their own rural identity, which may be negative or even resentful, let’s take pride in our literary/artistic culture and explain to them their place in it.

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