The Line in the Landscape: Poetry & Place

April 2022

A tomato grown in the sandy soil of Florida doesn’t taste anything like a tomato grown in a West Virginia creek bottom.  And the identical variety of grapes grown in France and Australia are required by law to be called by different names, so important is the influence of place on the flavor of wine.   The landscape in which a thing grows — be it a turnip or a turn of phrase — matters and leaves its imprint on what that thing becomes.

Through reading excellent examples and responding to a wide-ranging series of prompts, we will generate poems that explore how place figures in memory, shapes our sense of ourselves, and even influences the words we use in our writing.  Our most personal places: the ones we are from, the ones we have visited and loved, and the ones that live only in our imaginations will be the dirt in which these new poems will grow.

Class will meet at 7 PM EST on four consecutive Mondays, April 4th, 11th, 18th, and 25th with individual conferences the week of the 18th.  Each class will include poems to read in advance for discussion and in-class and takeaway writing prompts.  
The class schedule is as follows:
April 4 – What Do We Mean by “Writing About Place”?  Introduction to the class and to each other, first writing prompts.
April 11th – Using Landscape Detail to Write Personal Place
April 18th – Using Personal Detail to Write About the Landscape
April 25th – Final Thoughts/Zoom Reading of Student Work
Meet Your Instructor

Doug Van Gundy

Doug Van Gundy is a poet and musician from Elkins, West Virginia. His first book of poems, A Life Above Water, was published by Red Hen Press in 2007. He also plays fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and banjo in the old-time string band, Born Old. He also directs the Low-Residency MFA Program in Writing at West Virginia Wesleyan College. He is coeditor of the anthology Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia (West Virginia University Press, 2017).


A Life Above Water is a cycle of poems that examines both the natural and human worlds and explores the boundaries between the two. The manuscript is concerned with personal ecologies and mythologies the ways that things are interconnected and the stories that we create to explain those connections.  The reader is drawn into the broad, inclusive view of All These Indigestible Parts with its focus on the animals of the forest and birds of the air, the apparent cruelty of the natural world and that which is human about the animal through Fellowship and Baked Goods which looks at peopled communities and the ways we interact with one another, to the tighter, more personal focus of The Great Slowing and its themes of loss, shortcoming and redemption.