Travis Lane Wade on Ander Monson and belonging

Ander Monson

In Ander Monson’s poem, “KNOW YOUR LAKE EFFECT,” the concept of memory and identity (in this case with regards to Michigan) raises the question of whether we truly belong to a place and time. Monson writes:

To drink of and in the past.

To know that many of us who once did anything to leave end up coming back.

To not return, not yet.

To dream of it.

To keep singing.

“To drink of and in the past,” suggests the speaker’s remembrance—that ability to travel back in time within one’s own mind. Monson gives the reader a peek into those intimate moments where we dream about the past, in order to show the vulnerability and doubt we all face when coming to terms with how the past has shaped the present. Here, the past and the present come together in an adverse embrace—both concepts have an effect on the perception of memory, yet time and experience dictate the degree of positivity or negativity in that memory. Monson creates a moment where the speaker of the poem is searching for a time and a place where he/she belongs.

“To know that many of us who once did anything to leave end up coming back./ To not return, not yet.” I agree with the questioning of belonging that Monson has formed here. The thought of “moving on” or “moving forward” and then coming back to what is familiar—the idea that everything you ever wanted was right where you left it. I have moved many times in my adult life, and the feeling of “home” changes as the years pass. I recognize what Monson means when he writes: “To dream of it./ To keep singing.” As people, we long for comfort. We long for the sense of belonging. We long for the past, but we still keep moving through the present in order to get to a place where we feel at home.

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