Saturday, July 14, 2007

Creating a sense of place

During her fantastic Southern Reading Challenge this summer, "rockin' girl blogger" Maggie is holding a Sense of Place Contest in which participants choose a passage from one of their reading selections and post a picture that illustrates the quote. This is a great way to help us recreate, or at least to better imagine, the atmosphere of southern literature. This is a quite appropriate companion to our reading challenge, as the below sign posted at the home of late southern author Flannery O'Connor illustrates (apologies for the poor quality of the picture, not sure why that happened).

In case you can't read it, here are the first couple of lines transcribed:

The agricultural setting of Andalusia, with its laborers, buildings, equipment, and animals, figures prominently in Flannery O'Connor's work. Southern fiction places great emphasis on a sense of place, where the landscape becomes a major focus in the shaping of the action.

Iliana at Bookgirl's Nightstand posted this entry. I'm planning on entering, too, probably with a quote/photo from Flannery O'Connor. In the meantime, the contest has gotten me thinking about how other authors and artists create a sense of place in their respective works.

Last night, my baby brother and I (though technically, he's not really my baby brother anymore since he's nearly 25) went to the Decemberists' concert at Chastain Park in Atlanta, GA. I am a big fan of this band because they express such creativity. Their songs are actual stories that are interesting in their own right. The lyrics often read nicely even without the music, often quite literary, inspired by folk tales (the three Crane Wife songs are based on a Japanese tale), historical anecdotes, or literature and evoke a distinct setting and atmosphere. For example, on the latest album (The Crane Wife) the song Yankee Bayonet is a Civil War story of lost love that very successfully carves out a sense of place: the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. Read the lyrics, listen to the song, and contemplate its landscape--the foothills of Oconee County, South Carolina.

"Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)"

Heart-carved tree trunk, Yankee bayonet
A sweetheart left behind
Far from the hills of the sea-swelled Carolinas
That's where my true love lies

Look for me when the sun-bright swallow
Sings upon the birch bough high
But you are in the ground with the voles and the weevils
All a'chew upon your bones so dry

But when the sun breaks
To no more bulletin battle-cry
Then will you make a grave
For I will be home then
I will be home then
I will be home then
I will be home then

When I was a girl how the hills of Oconee
Made a seam to hem me in
There at the fair when our eyes caught, careless
Got my heart right pierced by a pin

But oh, did you see all the dead of Manassas
All the bellies and the bones and the bile
Though I lingered here with the blankets barren
And my own belly big with child

But when the sun breaks
To no more bulletin battle-cry
Then will you make a grave
For I will be home then
I will be home then
I will be home then
I will be home then

Stems and bones and stone walls too
Could keep me from you
Scaly skin is all too few
To keep me from you

But oh my love, though our bodies may be parted
Though our skin may not touch skin
Look for me with the sun-bright sparrow
I will come on the breath of the wind

Here's a little glimpse of the concert:


Maggie said...

Love It! Thanks for sharing! I'll be singing The Crane Wife as I do the laundry today!

Thanks, too, for reminding me about southern Civil War lit. such as Cold Mountain, On Agate Hill, and Tall Woman. I wanted to do a post on that two weeks ago but forgot.

Bookgirl said...

Ooh very good! I've got The Decemberists spinning on my iPod.
Can't wait to see what come up with.

Anonymous said...

Love that song, but some of the lyrics are a bit out:
It's 'wolves and weevils',
'bullets in Battle Creek',
and 'skeins of skin'. Voles are vegetarian, for the most part...