This week we’re featuring a poem by Katie Bickham, winner of this year’s Editor’s Prize. The poem features in our brand new Editor’s Prize spring issue, 35.5 (the ladder issue). Katie Bickham was born and raised in the Deep South and finds much of her writing turning itself toward her home state of Louisiana. After receiving her BA in English and MA in Liberal Arts from Lousiana State University in Shreveport, Katie took Steinbeck’s maxim (“You can never really write about a place until you leave it”) to heart, and is nearing the completion of her MFA at Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. Her poems have appeared in Deep South Magazine and The Road Not Taken: A Journal of Formal Poetry.
How much does place affect the people we become? And not just the place as it is now, but the history of the place? Do buildings and walls remember, and if so, do they speak? And if so, are we listening? These poems are taken from a collection called The Belle Mar. The Belle Mar is a fictional plantation in South Louisiana (loosely based on a real one called The Belle Rive). Each poem in the work takes place in a different room in the house in a different year. All my life I have felt stretched between a deep love of my home and something very near disgust for it. Am I who I am because of Louisiana’s grim history, or in spite of it? These poems try to “squeeze the universe into a ball” (or a house), with the house itself bearing witness to the ugliness, beauty, the hatred of others, the hatred of self, and the ghosts that haunt its own walls. How have we changed? How have we failed to? If we think of our own hearts as having many chambers, many rooms, which are the ones we keep locked? Which are the ones we, ourselves, are locked inside?
Widow’s Walk, 1917