Editor's Note: The three poems excerpted here are from Inner States, the as-yet-unpublished collection of 50 poems — one for each of the United States — by artist and author Lorenzo Moog.
I was born in Minnesota and live and write in the state of Washington. Three things happened within a few months of each other that led to this writing experience:
First, a road trip across the United States during which I was constantly delighted and amazed by the landscapes, the regional variations, the plants and animals and the light. I made notes.
Shortly after that trip I read the results of a survey of college sophomores in which 65 percent were geographically illiterate about their own country. For instance, a large sampling said they “weren’t sure” whether Miami was in the state of Florida, which was disheartening to say the least.
Finally, on the train from Boston to Philadelphia I was astonished by the squalor and decay of the towns and cities along the way as the train lumbered through Connecticut, which was very at odds with my previous experiences of that state.
When I returned to Seattle I wrote the first piece, Connecticut, with four more states quickly following at random. The rest evolved over a period of three years as I made discoveries about myself as a writer, a person and an American. In the process of writing the collection of 50 poems, Inner States, college sophomores were never very far from my mind nor were the extraordinary landscapes, the flora and fauna, and history and astonishing diversity of the country we call America.