Moheb Soliman is a poet and a sojourner. In June, supported by a grant from the Joyce Foundation, he set out to drive and write his way around all the Great Lakes. He writes that his circumnavigation of the terrestrial side of the edge will cover 7000 miles. He was at the half way mark when we met up in Fair Haven. On his blog he says “I wanted to make more than fly-over-territory of the Great Lakes region, lost between the obvious cultured coasts...a forgotten third coast for both Canada and the US. I was interested in the extent to which there may be a coherent ‘Great Lakes culture’ that goes beyond Canadian or American nationality, and what this reveals about the grey line between nature and culture.”
He finds a sense of place essential to his current writing as do I. Of course, his writing is very different from mine. He's a trained scribe after all with an advanced degree in the art of words. However, I enjoyed meeting another writer of Great Lakes related words. We both travel a back road in the literary world. Few people in the media biz find the inland seas or the rust belt around them of much interest now days.
Moheb has a keen eye for detail and a deft way with words. He came to the U.S. as a child from Egypt. He has a formal education in the writing arts, lived in New York and Toronto for a time where he picked up a BA and a MA respectively. He recalls his childhood by the Mediterranean Sea and thinks he has a need to live by large waters such as the Great lakes perhaps because of that early memory. His journey from Minneapolis through Canada's less populated upper lakes, took him east to the Golden Horseshoe's urbanity. Now he goes west back around the U.S. side of the lakes. The big city of Toronto had been rather hard on his budget, and after totaling up his expenses in CAN dollars he happily took up the invitation to spend two nights on Sara B on her mooring. The first night a lengthy and very noisy thunderstorm rolled through. He debated the likelihood of death by lightning strike as he sat beside two wet poles sticking up into the night sky inviting the stray bolt to come to ground. Then it began to rain hard and he said to himself, well there are lots of boats here. None appear to have been struck by lightning lately. I guess I”ll stay here and stay dry.
We took him for a slow sail the next day while a fog bank oozed in and retreated back out at the bay's north end. Despite the lack of wind, the constant shifting mist and fog bank made for interesting visuals. Often it brought blowing winter powder to my mind. At other times it smudged out the shoreline details. Had there not been so much motor boat traffic and noise it would have been downright dreamlike. We ghosted slowly back and forth, ate peanuts, and chattered about travels and adventures afloat and ashore- four old people and one young poet on an antique sailboat.
A critic wrote “A Soliman poem is open-ended without becoming vague, and flows like a silk scarf slipping through a knothole, only to catch itself on a stray splinter – the slippage of meaning, of sense that is at the core of all language.” The bay's normally well defined summer landscape was a bit like that for all of us on this foggy afternoon in July.
Moheb donated a few words to the video project on camaera before going on to his Rochester appointments and obligations. He's already laying the ground work for 2016 'performances'. He left a copy of his chapbook “this beach has more than two sides” with us. Google his name to find his blog or visit the Joyce Foundation website