Prairie Schooner Library Tour 2012 Travel Blog

Second Stop: Puzzling Potter

Filed under: Blog |

by Marianne Kunkel 


Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to ask questions, but what I’m finding more uncomfortable is not knowing what questions to ask. It’s the difference between admitting, “I hardly know western Nebraska; what town did we just stop at for gas?” and looking out the car window at the rolling hills near Potter, Nebraska, and being so curious about the area I don’t know where to start.


I spent the six-hour drive from Lincoln to Potter studying a landscape I didn’t expect or even understand. For example, when two tumbleweeds billowed across I-80, barely escaping the wheels of Kwame Dawes’s car, I was too stunned to reach for a camera. Not since my childhood in Lubbock, Texas, have I seen tumbleweeds; how do I begin to learn about Nebraska’s varied climates and geography?


And hills! Lovely, sprawling ones unlike any I’ve seen in Nebraska that led right into Potter, a community of no more than 400 people. The town’s library director, Gail Dunkle, generously arranged a meal for us at a local cafe. But here was another case of not having enough information to ask good questions; we arrived at the cafe too early and were told it was closed before I could reconfirm our reservation with Gail. (We eventually had the meal and the owner Maida’s chocolate-peanut butter pie was decadent!)


I bring up my struggles to formulate questions to thank the strikingly inquisitive audience at our reading at Potter’s public library. What made the evening unusual wasn’t only that there were eleven of us in total, or that we sat in chairs in a circle, but that between poems Kwame and I read, those in attendance asked countless thoughtful questions: How long have you been writing? Do you work on several poems at once? Are free-styling and poetry similar? Who are your influences? How can I find my way back into writing?


No matter how overwhelmed I feel on this tour, it doesn’t compare to how daunting creative writing can sometimes seem. I admire the residents of Potter for jumping in and asking tough questions. The hard work of articulating a question is worth the undoubtedly empowering answer.