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My Favorite Thing: Dennis Hinrichsen and his Lansing River Trail muse

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The question of what my favorite thing is really threw me for a loop. I have some pretty interesting objects, but none of them are my favorite thing. In the context of me stepping down as poet laureate, it is a physical thing — walking and listening to music on the Lansing River Trail while thinking about poetry.

I moved into this area in REO Town 17 years ago. I taught at LCC and sometimes walked the river trail to work. I did a lot of biking on it to MSU and as it’s opened up, you can get all the way down I-96 into Holt on the river trail with a few zigs and zags.

I was worried when I became poet laureate. A lot of energy was reaction, and I thought I wouldn’t be able to get any writing done because I was going to be so concerned with that.

Whatever the creative zone you need to arrive in, you need to create the space through a measure of things and activities. I needed a creative space where this energy could be reversed and I could get a lot of work done. For me, it is a real tangible thing: I like the energy between the dam, power plant and the bridges. It is a really nice quiet part of the trail there.

Once I’m on the river trail, I see all of Lansing’s layers. This gets into the concept of the city within the city. You get to see Lansing from another point of view. The walking of it was at a pace where I could ingest the city.

It reminded me of “The Songlines,” by Bruce Chatwin, which described the Aborigines singing their world into creation at the pace of their walking. I loved the idea that if you wear yourself in to the city, the city will wear itself back into you. It was also fun to walk into the craziness sometimes on the trail. I saw a whole different Lansing, drug deals and a deeper look at what the rhythms are of the Lansing area. I would walk at odd hours and it all sort of connected for me from there.

When we were doing the Sidewalk Poetry Project, the river trail connects the sidewalk poems. There is one in REO Town and it follows on to Old Town. If I take a loop there is the one on the Stadium District, then one on the river trail itself.

So the river trail started to take on this potent component that unifies these areas of place-making. It was no longer four things, but one connected by a river.

(This interview was edited and condensed by Dennis Burck. If you have a recommendation for “Favorite Things,” please email dennis@lansingcitypulse.com.)

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