For the past 10 years, editors of Missouri State University-West Plains’ (MSU-WP) Elder Mountain: A Journal of Ozarks Studies have shared an array of masterfully written pieces and beautifully framed images touting the unique characteristics of this region we call home.
Some of the pieces that have painted the most vivid verbal pictures, however, have been those written by the poets who’ve been impacted by the region’s natural beauty.
Such is the case with “Swallowhole,” a poem by Springfield resident Amy Wright Vollmar which is included in the journal’s recently released tenth volume.
A native of Alton, Illinois, Vollmar began writing poetry as a child, inspired by the wooded ravine near her home. She continued writing verse while studying English at Monmouth College.
After spending time in Texas following graduation, she moved to Springfield with her family where she once again found inspiration for her poetry in the hills and hollows of the Ozarks.
The retired teacher now volunteers, writes and shows readers “the beautiful fragility of the places she loves through her poetry,” according to her biography.
“Amy Wright Vollmar uses nature much as Robert Frost used nature,” said Elder Mountain editor and MSU-WP Professor of English Dr. Phillip Howerton. “Swallowhole first appears to be a simple walk along a creek, but when we arrive at the close, we realize we are in the web of a metaphor.
“The final line suggests something about ourselves, about a wish to move beyond everyday boundaries to peer into an unexplored space within ourselves,” he added. “If we glance back to see where this metaphor began, we will discover that it began in ourselves before the poem started – and that the poem is not about a creek at all.”
I’m near the creek
at my own risk,
the signs tell me—
banks could collapse
into the deep,
currents may take
me beyond reach
of hackberry root
down the swallowhole—
where the creek veers
from its safe path
to plunge beneath
the soft clay bank
below my feet,
tearing a way
through coils of stone,
pulsing down hollow
when it vanishes,
making a cave
I want to see.
Founded by author and MSU-WP Professor of English Dr. Craig Albin in 2009, Elder Mountain has published more than 1,400 pages of Ozarks-based material. The journal welcomes work from most every academic field, and many of its contributors are among the most respected scholars and writers in the field of Ozarks studies.
Issues 7, 8, 9 and 10 of Elder Mountain are available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
In addition to the hard copy journal, Howerton also maintains an online version of Elder Mountain.