Giving

James Allen Hall, Director, Rose O’Neill Literary House

  • Chester River summer
    Chester River summer
June 12, 2019
“I was standing at the foot of High Street, thinking about how a river marks a place…even though it is never fixed: we never enter the same river twice.”

The first poem I loved as an angsty teenager was Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan,” which concerns the eponymous Chinese emperor and his summer palace, Xanadu. Kublai Khan chose a riverside location for his “stately pleasure-dome,” and the speaker of the poem describes Alph as a “sacred river” running “[t]hrough caverns measureless to man/ Down to a sunless sea.”
I loved getting lost in the landscape Coleridge describes, the language itself a kind of “sacred river.”

The first time I crossed the Chester River was in the moving truck that brought me from upstate New York to Chestertown. Later, I was standing at the foot of High Street, looking down the Chester River, thinking about how a river marks a place on the map even though it is never fixed: we never enter the same river twice.

In the poem, the river goes underground and then bursts up in fountains and amid “this tumult Kubla heard from far/ Ancestral voices prophesying war!” I like thinking about how the Chester, or any river for that matter, provides an anchor even as it permits change. I like thinking of the land as a poem, as Coleridge did — and the river as a kind of line break, where sound and meaning and the ancestors’ call gather us in their arms before we rush away changed, renewed, and more resolutely ourselves.


Last modified on Jun. 12th at 12:21pm by Karen Jones.