John Lane

The Practice of Settlement, Finding a Sense of Place with John Lane

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Program Description

As a sharp observer of the natural world, John Lane spent the first half of his life roaming and writing about life on the move. In mid-life he met Betsy, married and put down roots, surprisingly where he began his life in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Once he was settled he decided to learn everything he could about the place in which he now resides. He took a saucer and a pen and drew a circle on a map that represented one mile in radius from his home and proceeded to explore every facet of the place including the topography, the history, the ancient and current citizenry, and industry.

This exploration sharpened his sense of place, and serves as a model for how we might look at our own homes, terrain, and communities. When writing an essay for National Geographic’s book, Heart of a Nation, edited by Barry Lopez, Lane states it was, “the beginning of the settling process. It was a coming to terms with things in your past and things in your place that you’ve ignored as important . . . I began to think, ‘What is it like to bore into this place that I am from?’” He shares with us the virtues and obstacles of becoming native to one place. (hosted by Michael Toms)

John Lane’s writing has been published in Orion, American Whitewater, Southern Review, Terra Nova, and Fourth Genre. He’s the editor of the digital newsletter, “Kudzu Telegraph.” His books include Waist Deep in Black Water (University of Georgia Press 2004), The Woods Stretched for Miles (University of Georgia Press 1999), Chattooga: Descending Into the Myth of Deliverance River (University of Georgia Press 2005), Weed Time: Essays from the Edge of a Country Yard (Hub City Press 1996), As the World Around Us Sleeps (Briarpatch Press 1992) and Circling Home (University of Georgia Press 2007). Lane is an associate professor of English at Wofford College. To learn more about the work of John Lane go to www.kudzutelegraph.com or www.ugapress.org/circlinghome.

Topics Explored in this Dialogue:

  • Why understanding the history and topography of our home place is important
  • How to explore your own home place
  • Why it is important to learn the dreams and deeds of the ancestors of a home place
  • How books are the keeper of lost history and are persistent against the ravages of development
  • How history is a tool for the imagination
  • How Hub City Writers Project became a model for play space, and literary activity
  • How a community turned tragedy into a blessing
  • What it took to build a sustainable house

Host: Michael Toms            Interview Date: 4/2/2008           Program Number: 3254

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