A Search For Place

May 3, 2020

Reflections on home, family, and the spiritual essence of place…

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we'll be talking with writer Jennifer Case about her memoir Sawbill: A Search for Place, published by University of New Mexico Press. 

Case weaves biography, autobiography and artifact to explore the philosophy of place.  Case chronicles the history of Sawbill Lodge, built by the Argobust family in the 1930s and later owned by her grandparents.  She embarks on a journey to understand this special place.

“Like a gas bubble beneath my chest, Sawbill [Lodge] turns physical. It presses against my ribs and expands in my lungs. It colors my memories so that when I think of the North Shore and my family’s experience there, I am thinking of longing, though not always my own. In a world where families routinely move, where fewer and fewer adults stay at one job for longer than a handful of years, my longing for place and permanence forms itself into a stone, moves from my stomach to my lungs to the back of my throat, until all I can do is remember and try to understand.”

Author and professor, Jennie Case
A cabin on the Sawbill Lodge resort property.
Credit Case family archives

Jennifer Case grew up along the river valleys of Minnesota in a family that took weekend backpacking trips on the Superior Hiking Trail. The North Shore’s red rock, pine, and lichen have continued to resonate with her even after moving to Nebraska, upstate New York, and Arkansas.

Case’s writing explores issues related to place, environment, home, family, and motherhood. Her work has appeared in journals such as Orion, Sycamore Review, Zone 3, Fourth River, and Michigan Quarterly Review. She is the recipient of a Bread Loaf Bakeless Scholarship and Stone Canoe‘s 2014 Allen and Nirelle Galson Prize in Fiction.

She teaches creative writing at the University of Central Arkansas, serves as an assistant nonfiction editor at Terrain.org, and is the supervising editor of Arkanas. She lives in Central Arkansas with her family.

Sawbill Lodge dining room, from the cover of a resort post card.
Credit M. J. Humphrey, courtesy of Jennifer Case.
Sawbill Lodge postcard.
Credit M. J. Humphrey, courtesy Jennifer Case.

Thank you to "Grandmother" Helen Case for the readings.

A special thank you to singer songwriter, Charlotte Taylor for the original songs inspired by Case’s book, and the guitar stylings of Matt Stone.

Thank you to musicians and songwriters:   Tim Anthony, with Saboor Salaam, Baaqir Salaam, and Braeden Miller for the cool jazz. Thank you to Michael Shackelford for the song "Maiden Voyage."

Thank you to Stickyz Rock 'N' Roll Chicken Shack for keeping music alive and well in Arkansas.

Generous funding for this episode was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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