Mid•west (mĭd-wĕst′) \ n. / 1. Breadbasket of America centrally located in the middle of nowhere. 2. The choking-on-air-at-2am-feeling of corn pollen entering through your empty window. 3. The sound of all too much silence, a silence that makes city people nervous. 4. A region where simplicity is not taken for granted. 5. Where the trust fund porcelain men graze in their vineyard vines. 6. Where green floods. 7. Where nothingness can overwhelm you. 8. An area of the United States where drowning in a silo is considered an honorable death. 9. Where it’s important to know the word silo. 10. An area so open, yet miniscule- are your lungs hurting yet? 11. Will I ever be able to breathe here? 12. What if it never gets better? 13. It’s normal to not adjust all at once. 14. College can’t be everything you expected it to. 15. You’re here to get an education, not to have fun. 16. I can’t tell you what to do- this is your decision. 17. It’s like being thirsty, and they keep giving you corn. 18. My chest feels so different here. 19. I understand what my therapist meant the day she told me your body remembers time and space. 20. I know I’m 5,400 feet lower, but I didn’t expect to feel this low. 21. Maybe I can make peace here. 22. How do you tell an ear and a shuck to take their hands off your throat? 23. Did you know most of the corn isn’t suitable for human consumption? 24. My professor sent me a late night email telling me my words have been troubling him lately. 25. That I am the kind of student the school wants- that he doesn’t want to see me go. 26. He gave me a spoonful of pawpaw before the seasons changed. 27. He wants me to feel welcome here. 28. He talks about the rise of populism- he says he is the kind of man to worry about Montana’s fate. 29. I think I would miss the nights of lying on the steamy concrete, wondering how it’s possible for such a big person to inhabit such little space. 30. Maybe you don’t have to be native to a land to let your lungs breathe there.
Transitioning from living in the mountainous state of Colorado to the flat lands of Illinois has been a new experience- both physically, as well as emotionally. Freshman year of college is all about new experiences, and moving to the Midwest was surprising, in that I started noticing the absence of things I took for granted in Colorado. Change in landscape greatly affects mood, and in my poem Midwest, I wanted to convey all of the different feelings of being a freshman in a new state, while using a constraint. I spent several late autumn nights choking on corn pollen in my dorm,and in many ways- I felt stuck. The poem is guided by a constraint in that it is a set of definitions, but I found that the power in that poem is that I was able to define the Midwest in my own way- giving me a sense of control over my landscape.
Yovana is a first year student at Illinois Wesleyan University. She is majoring in English with a concentration on writing, and spent most of last semester developing a poetry portfolio via her Writing Poetry course. She is loving the small class sizes and individualized attention, and is excited about her English course this semester on the Great Migration. She is currently studying the poems of Langston Hughes and Richard Wright, and is excited to further submerge herself in her major. She is exploring honesty and truth, but also pushing the boundaries of how these concepts are expressed, and especially, how they are vocalized from a female perspective. Read an excerpt from Yovana's chapbook Scents of War.