By Pat Williamsen

While I am stuck inside, The Columbus Anthology provides a chance to explore my city through the imaginations of the writers who live here. Coming from someplace else and uncomfortable with urban living, I’d often heard Columbus referred to as a small town that never grew up, despite being home to a major university and the seat of state government.  Based on what this anthology tells me about Columbus, I could be happy living there.

In her introduction, editor Amanda Page sums up the dilemma of Columbus as “a city without an absolute and concrete place in the national imagination.” These writers defiantly suggest Columbus doesn’t need to find a place in the national imagination—they have plenty imagination, thank you very much, to define Columbus for themselves and for Ohio readers.

Some of the writers offer subtle reflections of our town.  Tiffany Williams and Sarah Marsom reflect on neighborhood revitalization and preservation; Rob Colby, catching youngsters playing hooky, offers a glimpse of the town’s mischievous side; Nick Dekker believes the town’s identity can be found in diners. Other writers offer in-your-face exhortations about being gay, being black, being political, being (fill in the blank). Each essay or poem reflects an understanding that Columbus is home to an impressive community of creatives whose experience of Columbus belies the lack of “an absolute and concrete place.”

These writers are militantly attached to Columbus, insisting its cityscape allows true character to develop and thrive.  And maybe that’s the point these writers are making, that Columbus is flat enough to nurture a diversity of voices—hungry voices, angry voices, but above all, thoughtful voices that define  possibilities not constrained by the city’ s boundaries and unwilling to accede to national misconceptions.

The Columbus Anthology is part of a series (published by Trillium, an imprint of the Ohio State University Press, co-published with Belt Publishing, Cleveland) canonizing the character of Ohio’s major cities.  When the shutdown is over, I intend to drive around and explore Columbus, with The Columbus Anthology as a guidebook.

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