God bless Wal-Mart. When we are low on supplies, and unable to park the giant beast in any of the now impossibly tiny town squares of the Midwest, a familiar sign up ahead tells us that all is safe. As we arrive in Brookings, South Dakota, we turn the Winnebago on a dime and extravagantly take up two nose-to-nose spaces in the far reaches of a gigantic parking lot. We stroll inside, buy some new RV anti-freeze, some tiny cans of soup, a magazine or two. We just stand there in the dazzling hum of enterprise. When it's time to go, we go freely. There will be another Wal-Mart. Even when things are darkest, we know one is waiting out there for us, with toilet paper, CDs, Pepsi, and batteries.
Evans's poetry was pretty new to me when I started working on this book. But I took to it immediately because it was so in sync with my own ethos about poetry, place, and the physical world.
He meets me at the door and we go down to his basement to chat. Like other basements I've seen on this trip, this one is full of books. It's well lit, and his computer rests in the far corner. We sit on comfortable chairs and start talking about poems from his upcoming book, a personal best collection of work of his from over 30 years.
I ask him about the poems written about his hometown, Sioux City, Iowa, and despite the fact that he's been in South Dakota now for 35 years, he talks fondly and in detail about the alleys and streets of his hometown.
He talks about his long interest in the physical world. He was a pole vaulter, played all kinds of sports, and is as comfortable fishing or hunting pheasant as he is writing about all of them. When we talk about places that have inspired his work, he rattles off a number of poems that couldn't have existed without the genesis that the world has provided him, a poem about bullfrogs, poems about the packing plant where his dad worked.
We go through his lovely, almost sprawling home, and go out into the back yard. It's sunny today. Crisp. It is a time in South Dakota when it occasionally is already snowing. But it's brilliant and pretty. We shoot some photos. We go around to the front and he admires the size of my motorhome. And then I'm gone.