Michael Martone

recorded in Tuscaloosa, AL

with Theresa Pappas

 

Michael Martone

Michael Martone. I’m in Tuscaloosa. And uh….[laughs].


The Knox Writers’ House

How’d you get here?


Martone

Oh, how’d I get here. Grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Never left Indiana until I went to graduate school in Baltimore, at Johns Hopkins, where I met Theresa, and then I got a job at Iowa State University, so lived in Iowa for six, seven years, then another job at Harvard University and was there for four years, then Syracuse University, so I guess my life, or my travels, were really dictated by the job choice of teaching. And from Syracuse University came to Tuscaloosa to teach at the University of Alabama 15 years ago.


KWH

So…who are you? [Laughs.]


Theresa Pappas

[Laughs.]


Martone

You are…


Pappas

And I’m Theresa Pappas. I am here, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Almost fifteen years now. I came here with my family then, because of a job. I was born in Baltimore, and I realize, when thinking about places, that even though I’m from Baltimore and that’s my hometown, that I have a very different connection to place than my husband, Michael Martone, Hoosier [laughs], writer. And I’ve thought of this over the years, because Michael goes to high school reunions, he remembers people from kindergarten, and he thoroughly knows the place where he grew up—and he was basically in one place all that time. And even though I’m from Baltimore and I always, as a child, lived in the Baltimore area, either in the city or in the suburbs of Baltimore, I realized that I moved about ten times before I was 18 years old, so I was always—I went to three different elementary schools, I went to three different high schools and I don’t remember a lot of the kinds of things that my husband commonly remembers.


Martone

And one of those places was an imaginary city.


Pappas

Right. Well, the place I lived the longest in my childhood no longer exists. It was scraped off the face of the earth to build a Best Buy.


KWH

What?


Pappas

It was this strange, sweet, little kind of apartment complex in Baltimore County that had little cottages and a few apartment buildings. And it’s gone and there’s a Best Buy there. And then, where I lived later, as a teenager, was a totally new city that had been created by James Rouse—Columbia, Maryland—that was planned, but hardly built, or only partially built in the time that I lived there. So it was only about three years old. So I feel like, if I say I’m from Baltimore—you know, I’ve even had people say to me, Did you really grow up here? Because they think I don’t know my way around, people who’ve lived there as adults, and I really don’t. There’s a sense of impermanence for me about that place, and about places in general.


KWH

Do you think that’s why place factors into your poetry so much?


Pappas

Yeah, I think so. I was thinking about how, in writing about place, I’m also writing about perception. And also about deception.

Rebecca by Donald Barthelme

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