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A Response To Melissa Mylchreest's poem 'Frenchtown'

former Smurfit-Stone Mill near Frenchtown, Montana

by  Kristy Bixler

Ten minutes from my house in any direction I can climb a mountain, or catch a fish, play a round of folf, or cross country ski. I live in a world of adventure and life that I never want to leave. There is nothing better than living in a place that is so rich in its beauty, a natural theme park. I have been unbelievably fortunate with a good secure life in Missoula, Montana, that allows me to take part in all of my favorite activities.

However, another ten minutes from my house lay the ruin of the Mill. Not everyone in my town has been as lucky as my family. Even though I was fairly young when the mill shut its doors forever, I remember it vividly. It played out just the way it did in Melissa Mylchreest’s poem “Frenchtown.” All of a sudden the mill was gone. When I would drive to Frenchtown to swim in the pond or play a game of softball, everything seemed different, quieter, as though the life had gone out of the previously bustling little area.

“Frenchtown” struck a poignant chord in my heart because I remember families in my neighborhood, friend’s parents, and so many decent people throughout the community at large that were so deeply affected by the closing of the mill. You could practically see the devastation everywhere. People were out of jobs, friends had to move away in order to make a living. I was young, but even I remember the sad times that followed the closure.

Mylchreest said when she came to visit our class that she sometimes worries about whether or not it is her right to tell stories of the suffering that people have endured. She is not a native Missoulian, Frenchtownite, or even Montanan. But her portrayal of the loss that the community felt with the closing of the mill was stronger than people who have lived here all their lives. As she said to our class, it is the job of the poet to point things out to the rest of the world and to tell them that it is worth noticing. She showed that our mill was worth being noticed.

("Frenchtown" was published in Melissa Mylchreest's 2013 chapbook Reckon, winner of the Merriam-Frontier Award.)

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Credit courtesy: Kristy Bixler
Kristy Bixler

Bio: My name is Kristy Bixler, I’ve lived in Missoula my whole life and couldn’t love a place more! I am a junior at the University of Montana and am getting my degree in secondary English Education. I work at a preschool and love every second of it! I am also the proud mother to a goldfish named Voldemort and a rabbit named Bunny.

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