Emily Wassink - Artist’s book, detail 2D Problem Solving

I Hope You Feel No Pain

By Kayla Lindquist ’25

LAS 110: Intersections

The final project in my Intersections class asked students to try their hand at writing a poem and then to write a paper explaining their artistic choices. Kayla wrote a poem to the prairie near her home that is systematically being destroyed, and her poem hits hard with great sonic impact in a way that complements the fury she feels at those who are destroying this prairie. The accompanying paper explains in thoughtful detail how Kayla wrote this poem and what inspired her. It represents a masterful blending of art and environmental concerns.

– Valerie Billing

i hope you feel no pain.

a poem for Bell Bowl Prairie

you have a rare blend
but you’ve met a dead end

it wasn’t your fault
we’ve tried to extend
your life
we’ve fought
we’ve cried
we’ve thought
we’ve pried
we’ve sought

but they don’t see
for their eyes had rot
and their minds?
…full of knots

we have a good shot
and they have squat
but you are, it seems
a jackpot in their blindspot
‘what do they have to gain?’
i’m not sure
‘all this for a plane?’
i suppose
‘well tell them they have bad aim.’

i will, and i hope you feel no pain

we will amend
and defend
until the very end
and then
we will miss you…
old friend.

Emily Wassink - Artist’s book, detail 2D Problem Solving

Emily Wassink – Artist’s book, detail 2D Problem Solving

My poem, “I Hope You Feel No Pain” is about a ten-thousand-year-old prairie that is at the risk of being destroyed. It is located about thirty minutes from my home so it’s something that stirs up a lot of emotion in me. The reason for its destruction happens to be due to its location, which is right next to an expanding airport. The fight to save this prairie has been occurring for about 100 hundred years but has recently heated up quite a bit (Save Bowl Prarie) Naturalists in my area are starting to doubt if they can change the minds of these stubborn airport officials, who have so far either ignored us or lied about their plans. Bell Bowl prairie is important because over 99.99% of the natural prairie in Illinois – known as the prairie state – has been destroyed (Leopold) In addition to this, the habitat is one of the oldest and most rare left. So, it is rather compelling that now is the time that people take an interest. Following that, Bell Bowl inspired George Fell to say one of his most repeated quotes of all time: “Nothing becomes valuable until it becomes rare” (White). To continue, Bell Bowl is home to many endangered plants, insects, and bird species that literally can’t live in any other ecosystem on the planet. This creates an obvious conflict because the prairie cannot be moved, it would not be able to survive anywhere else (White)

Much of my poem was inspired by the great poet and naturalist Taylor Brorby. When I read his poem, “Sweetness”, I realized that people now don’t really understand prairies and their significance. I additionally felt making the poem more personal would invoke emotion and maybe encourage more people to care. To continue, Brorby’s poem describes a prairie and its purpose to us, or how we are supposed to enjoy/spend time in it. Lines 3-9 of “Sweetness” highly inspired the human to prairie connection I longed to express in my poem: “This is why we walk: to push aside/ clay and clover, to dust our pant/ Legs with green gray pollen, sage oil/ oozing into pores. To crush it/ Between thumb and finger press it/ into journals fill pages with the/ wide open space of prairie” (Brorby). In lines 4-6, Brorby illustrates a scene where a naturalist feels an element in a prairie and then keeps it as a memento. This sort of activity was very common, and still is in the naturalist world. However, I feel like this general sense of curiosity has been lingering among people. The phenomenon has led to a strong disconnect, which is proven when society values the local economy and an airport over one of the oldest ecological remnants in the history of Illinois. One of my heroes, Aldo Leopold, a famous naturalist in literature, often spoke about this developing lack of interest. He, too, was frustrated with the lack of empathy and knowledge represented in recent times regarding the wild places and critters on our planet. Leopold was a man who often did what Brorby described in those lines. Most days, he sat somewhere outdoors for hours and collected every piece of data he could. He then would travel back to his cabin and write books about his experiences, trying to teach us about the resources we are losing because we are too “blind” to see them (Leopold). One of his most famous quotes which really hits home to his argument is “The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: ‘What good is it?’” (Leopold).

In terms of the design and flow of my poem, I wasn’t really inspired by any other sources. Most of it just comes to me randomly while listening to music. Once I heard George Fell’s quote about the value of rarity, I took off from there. For example, my first line “you have a rare blend, but you’ve met a dead end” was designed to illustrate a naturalist seeing and studying the prairie like George Fell had, only for it to be destroyed. Shortly after, in lines 3-10, I tie in the empathetic perspective gained from the works of Brorby and Leopold. The rest of the poem goes on to rotate between these two themes in an effort to pull emotion out of people. One line, in particular, was intended to get a certain group of people to care: the airport officials. I tried to achieve this by being simple, but also slightly offensive at the same time. This is seen in line 23 when I wrote: “well tell them they have bad aim.” The inspiration for this line was simply the fact that they had plenty of other land around the prairie that they could have destroyed, but they refused to listen to multiple environmental and urban engineers that had sided with the naturalists. Moving on, I played with sound in my poem in a couple of different ways. My favorite example of this is in the third stanza: “we’ve fought/ we’ve cried/ we’ve thought/ we’ve pried/ we’ve sought.” I tried to design the sound to be quicker and more dramatic than it otherwise was if stretched out. I feel that it grabs the reader’s attention better this way. In terms of context for that stanza, the “we” refers to the naturalists trying to save the prairie. To add, I think this small detail in sound makes the next stanza bolder, almost like a gut punch. “But they don’t see/ for their eyes had rot” is a bit harsh and adds a bit of the realistic anger that was created by the decision of the airport officials. To wrap up, my sound methods were a tiny bit chaotic in the sense that it wasn’t necessarily consistent. For example, I started off the poem in a calmer way, almost every line ending with “end.” I also finished the poem in this way to “bring it home” so to speak. I felt that it made the last theme and stanza more somber instead of angry and helped to close in an obvious/softer sort of way. Stanzas 2-4 however end with harder letters like “t” and “ht.” Using these letters was fitting because it enhanced the emotion or frustration that was expressed.

To finalize, the fight to save Bell Bowl Prairie has been a long and stressful one for me, and my local naturalist friends. Writing this poem helped to express some of the feelings we all shared about the airport’s choice. Learning along the way from writers like Leopold and Brorby helped me to find a foundation for my poem and to trust the emotions I was feeling in the first place. I hope that anyone who reads it can one day understand what we’ve lost and the wild places we lose every day because of decisions made by people who refuse to care.

Works Cited

Brorby, Taylor. “Sweetness.” Crude: Poems About Place, Energy, and Politics. Ice Cube Press, 2017.

Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac. Oxford University Press, 2020.

Save Bell Bowl Prairie. Accessed 21 Nov, 2021.

White, John. “John White: The Illinois Prairie and its People.” YouTube, uploaded by Prairie Research Institute, 13 Nov. 2013, John White: The Illinois Prairie and its People

White, John. “Statement to the Greater Rockford Airport Authority About Bell Bowl Prairie.” September 30, 2021. Bell_Bowl_Prairie_statements_by_John_White.pdf