Humans of the Catskills: Sam Truitt

Sam Truitt

Journey to the Catskills:

I first came to Woodstock in 1999 with my then-wife Flo to ride out the week of that new year (and its much-vaulted dread of global computer crash) at a mutual friend’s place on Mink Hollow Road in Lake Hill. We had a blast, coming from the city, though a cold one, in the country – we came and went – and by the way, inevitably, falling under the shadow of Overlook. Of course, as Alf Evers writes in his Catskill history, it’s known here that once the shadow of that mountain has passed over one, fate assigns a return – and exactly 10 years later, past many a twist and between, with my wife Kim and our daughters Indiana and Evangeline, we did come back with vim – and, curiously, into a house near contiguous to Mink Hollow. So, fate brought us to the Catskills and to Woodstock that now some 12 years on has proved retrospectively inevitable, though nothing is, perhaps.


If the meaning of the word “vocation” holds to its Latin root in vocare, “to call,” mine is to locate where language originates: that calls to me, and it seems to be beyond me, leading a way. While on one hand that led to semi-academic path studying Anglo-Saxon and more broadly etymology for a period of time, what I have found is words come from the heart (I know, I’m a little slow), with further the understanding that we are more often than not disassociated from that region in our torsos – so that our speech, divorced from its beginning, becomes mechanical, or autonomic, and sometimes top-heavy, imprisoned by conceptual domains. (Which is fine: language is a tool, too, for getting along; and as T.S. Eliot has it, “we cannot bear too much reality.”) I’ve discovered that what we term poetry for me has been the best medium by which to map that origin and its sensory complement (our lives, or “all I perceive is my body” (Democritus)). For me that in part has fallen to the nature of speech as well as the investigation of the discovery that speech coupled with attention (the state of grasping or reaching) is inherently poetic, or a thing made. So that’s the nature of what has called to me in this incarnation that’s manifested in books, audio-visual recordings of sudden diction, performances, teaching, publishing, and a constant refrain to seek to speak and act from the heart, as much as I can bear.


My avocation is the default mode network, defined as the web of interacting brain regions active when not focused on the outside world: or daydreaming, latching onto thoughts about myself, remembering the past and planning for the future. A lot of my time whirls in this zone. On the one hand it’s annoying and sometimes even a self-induced horror – or as Mark Twain wrote, “I have known a great many troubles but most of them never happened.” Yet, in another light, Twain also posited that “when the tank runs dry you’ve only to leave it alone and it will fill up again in time, while you are asleep – also while you are at work on other things and are quite unaware that this unconscious and profitable cerebration is going on.” The call and calling away are an intermingling and integral to making things at a higher order: or it’s only by realizing that there is something to which to return that you know that it was real in the first place and that it might be the first place.

Happiness Is:

Happiness for me is when I am in the thing and can do no wrong.

Favorite Dish:

I love the artichoke. It has art in it; also a clear beginning and end, pulling away and away its leaves to leave the heart that, dipped in butter, hits the spot.

Ideal Country Home:

Weather-tight as necessary and tied to an energy source so that it is autonomous (or off the grid), though permeable to the outer world. The poet Gary Snyder speaks of this kind of permeability in dwelling formation on finding on his mantlepiece mud daubers had built a nest for themselves inside the muzzle of his shotgun. His insight seems to point toward the observation that nothing can be whole that is closed off. Or as Reina Maria Rodriguez notes, “And don’t forget, ‘if a bee lands on your hat, you should protect it, to build a hive together.'”

*Read more about Truitt’s work at and