Thursday, October 09, 2003

Elizabeth Dodd - Manhattan, KS

The sun is going down in Manhattan when I arrive at Elizabeth Dodd's home near the campus of Kansas State. The sun peeks through a stand of trees and we sit on a screened in porch in her back yard. Cars go by, but the town seems awfully distant.

As with all of these interviews, it's remarkable to talk to her about her work. Like many academics, Dodd is where she is partly because of a job. Born in Colorado, raised in Appalachia, she finds herself in the high grass prairie of central Kansas, a striking and beautiful landscape, desolate, stark, and currently fashioned with millions of small red plants. Her own work has been informed by all of the places I've mentioned, but Kansas figures prominently in one from her book Archetypal Light. She reads to me on the porch, and I recognize some of the prairies I saw south of town. If I close my eyes I can see the poem's trees as human forms, hear the prairie on fire.

We go inside the house, past its reclaimed and beautiful hardwood floors, and into Elizabeth's study. A striking ceiling to floor window pours soft early evening light into the room. Elizabeth has two workspaces, a plain table facing the window, and then a laptop away from the window, facing a favorite painting by a former student.

We say goodbye and I carry my bag of cameras and recorders alongside the road. I'm lost in thought about Dodd's work, especially the poem I've just heard, and I'm stunned by the sight of my giant RV, waiting in the parking lot of a church nearby. My wife is reading a magazine, and she greets me with crackers, peanut butter, and Pepsi.