Two world-traveled, well-published poets call Brockport “Home”

By on August 22, 2019

I agree with my neighbor’s self-assessment, calling herself “The wandering poet who knows there’s no place like home.”

Karla Linn Merrifield has been traveling to promote her poetry. She just published a book, Athabaskan Fractal: Poems of the Far North, after 20 years of writing with over a dozen or more trips to the far reaches of North America for the inspiration. That book joins others in a growing list of her publications on travel, nature, and the environment (see photo). In addition to the recent publications, she has had over 700 poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. 

Karla divides her time between her house three doors down in Sweden Village and one in Florida, residing in each during the appropriate season. I saw her drive by recently, so I went to visit and see how she is doing. That’s when I gleaned her views of house and home, and we both shared our affection for our Brockport home.

Karla Linn Merrifield calls Brockport “home”

“I am thrilled to be a Brockport resident,” Karla Linn Merrifield said. “I live in the Town of Sweden, but I love the Village of Brockport. I am in the village just about every day.”

As a Sweden Village resident, “house” and “home” to her are two different things. “The last time I had traveled for a month,” she reflected, “I was so glad to be home. I sat down in the sun room in the middle of the night, and said, ‘There’s no place like home.’ It was home, my house, but it was also my Brockport home. I could not wait to see everybody, walk the canal, see the lift bridges, and see what had been happening in the month I was gone. I never felt so strongly about home.”

Karla’s roots are in Brockport. She retired in 2002 from The College at Brockport as Director of Marketing Communications emerita, after 12 years in the position. In that position, she wrote speeches for previous College Presidents Dr. John Van de Wetering and Dr. Paul Yu. She then went on to teach freshman composition for seven years in the Department of English. The College is also her alma mater where she earned an M.A. in Creative Writing in 1997.

Karla and fellow poet Bill Heyen both love Brockport. As a professor in the English Department, Bill was her advisor on the M.A. thesis. They are similar in their poetic style and support each others’ work. “I think we really started connecting through his environmental poems,” she said. “That’s a lot of what I do, observations about the earth and the beauty of the earth we stand to lose.”  

Bill is a world-renowned poet who has appeared in about 250 anthologies, many from major publishers here and abroad. He was asked for his views on Karla’s poetry.

I’ve known Karla Merrifield’s always-surprising writing for decades. She is a passionate and romantic poet, but knows how tragic our lives can be, and knows that we’re at an ecological tipping point. Her voice can be austere as she “wields” her poems, and can be tender and understanding as we face our common fears. She is an indefatigable world- and word-traveler who helps us to hope.

Bill Heyen calls Brockport “home”

Bill, with all his world-wide literary renown, like Karla, has chosen to live in Brockport. After about 50 years with The College at Brockport, he looks back on a fulfilling career, having returned “home” to Brockport with a Ph.D. he earned elsewhere. Bill, now professor emeritus, said: * 

I’ve had opportunities for more prestigious jobs at more prestigious universities. But I know that in this floating world, this small property of house, trees, lawns, cabin within this village, this woof and warp of generations of Brockport friends is crucial to me. More and more, I’m reluctant to leave this acre for any length of time. 

(About “cabin within this village:” Bill and Hanny lived on Frazier Street in the village. He had a small cabin in his backyard where he would retreat to do his writing. When they moved to smaller quarters, he granted Karla’s request to adopt his cabin. She had it dismantled and rebuilt in her backyard where it stands as a tribute to the poet and friend.)

*Note: The information in this section is taken from my article in the Hamlin-Clarkson Herald and Suburban News, November 2, 2014: “New anthology crowns Bill Heyen’s prolific literary career.” DH

Karla Linn Merrifield looks over her books at home in Sweden Village.  Photo by Dianne Hickerson

Karla Linn Merrifield looks over her books at home in Sweden Village.
Photo by Dianne Hickerson

Karla’s recent book joins others in a growing list of her publications on travel: 2007 Godwit: Poems of Canada, 2012 The Ice Decides, 2013 Lithic Scatter and other Poems, 2013 Attaining Canopy and 2015 Bunchberries: More Poems of Canada. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

Karla’s recent book joins others in a growing list of her publications on travel: 2007 Godwit: Poems of Canada, 2012 The Ice Decides, 2013 Lithic Scatter and other Poems, 2013 Attaining Canopy and 2015 Bunchberries: More Poems of Canada. Photo by Dianne Hickerson