Coming home: MSUM professor and alumnus shares travel-inspired poetry

By Laura Grimm

Despite traveling the world, MSUM English professor Yahya Frederickson keeps returning home to Moorhead.

Frederickson shared a few poems from his new book “In a Homeland Not Far” last Thursday for the Tom McGrath Visiting Writers Series. Despite the series’ name, Frederickson is far from a visitor. He grew up in Moorhead, graduated from MSUM in 1985 and returned as a professor in 1999 after years of traveling.

“I never thought I’d still be here,” Frederickson said, “but it’s been a good nest to fly back to.”

“In a Homeland Not Far” covers a few of the countries Frederickson has been to, including Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia.

“I’ve really been enriched by all these places I’ve been able to go,” Frederickson said. “I try to bring it all home.”

Home is Moorhead, where he can share his travels with family, friends and students.

“It’s always really interesting to see the different viewpoints of different people,” senior English major Ashley Thorpe said. “(The reading) was a lot more personal than I thought it would be, and it focused a lot on human profiling, just little glimpses. There were some general viewpoints too, but I really liked the little glimpses that he gave us into just the next-door-neighbor grocer.”

Frederickson’s reading kicked off the series for the year, and the theme of home could not be shared at a more perfect time.

“I always wanted Yahya to read about the notion of home and homeland, and it’s during homecoming,” English professor Kevin Carollo said. He is the new director of the series and the one who chooses the speakers.

While Carollo saw the opportunity, Frederickson did not realize the timing until the reading.

“It’s ‘In a Homeland Not Far,’ the title of the book, it’s homecoming and I am an alumnus,” Frederickson said. “It just all lined up. It’s like a harmonic convergence.”

Moorhead is not only home, but also the place that propelled Frederickson into traveling. It started when he went on the National Student Exchange to Oregon, and it turned into joining the Peace Corps in Yemen. He returned as a part-time professor in 1999 but is now a full-time faculty member.

“You gotta go and see whatever you’re going to see,” Frederickson said, “but I always came back.”

Frederickson draws on these experiences to write his poetry. So far, his repertoire includes three chapbooks and two full-length books. He is currently working on a translation of contemporary Kyrgyz poetry, as he spent a semester teaching in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan last year.

“Home seems to always be curiously elsewhere,” Carollo said when introducing Frederickson. However, Frederickson has found that Moorhead is the place he can come home to between travels.

Frederickson may not know where his next journey will take him, but he knows he will return here.

“I can’t say that I belong in those places, because I don’t. You don’t get to choose that,” Frederickson said. “I grew up in Moorhead, and I feel like I’m from here. I can’t be from anywhere else.”

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