"The Upper Peninsula" as written by and Sufjan Stevens....
live in America
With a pair of Payless shoes
The upper peninsula
And the television news

And I've seen my wife
At the K-Mart
In strange ideas
We live apart

I live in a trailer home
With a snow mobile, my car
The window is broken out
And the interstate is far

I drove all night
To find my child
In strange ideas
He's been revived

In strange ideas
In stranger times
I've no idea
What's right sometimes

I lost my mind
I lost my life
I lost my job
I lost my wife


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"The Upper Peninsula" as written by Sufjan Stevens

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The Upper Peninsula song meanings
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  • +3
    General Commentsongmeanings.com - not listentosongsbutdon'tthinkaboutheirmeanings.com
    klauber901on August 29, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Comment"Now there is something like 4,500. That's crazy. Today there isn't always a lot of work up there, unemployment is high, so is alcoholism."

    I got to Michigan Tech University, a school of about 8,000 people located in the Kewanee. This population estimate might be not counting the college, but Houghton and it's neighboring town Hancock are both vibrant communities.

    Also, Calumet, located in the center of the Kewanee was very nearly the capital of Michigan, as it was one time the wealthiest county in the United States.

    The Upper Peninsula is not some barren wasteland and his home to three colleges and a ton of amazing places to camp, sight-see, and investigate.
    phaty4on December 16, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe 3rd greatest song ever written.
    antennason April 20, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Commentall in my opinion...

    v1: patriotism, generic strip mall consumerism, t.v. news and K-mart. the background is set - lower/middle class, low population town of the typical consumer. in this case the town also carries the stigma of having once thrived and is now decidely not doing so. and although i'm sure the u.p. is beautiful and peaceful, i don't believe the character in the song is experiencing it as such. this other side of the scene is also set here in verse one - a man who sees his wife, with in the very least this barrier of 'strange ideas', the recurring point in the song, between them. the ideas that they are divorced, that they are so distant they bump into one another at the store, or that he watches her indulging in her consumerism from an almost out-of-body perspective because he is so unable to connect with that consumerism are all possibilities, none concretely 'provable'. they also do not really effect the theme of the song - this man feels a distance from his wife, caused or worsened by his/these 'strange ideas, and on some level noticing a certain banality in his environment. (again, this isn't picking on the u.p. - the first line is 'I live in America' and this scene could happen many places in this country.)
    v2: further personalize scene - this guy's life sucks. live's in a trailer, it's winter and he's plowin snow when he drives it's so high, broken window in his ride to boot and the journey is gonna be long, he lives out in the middle of nowhere. second part is his strange ideas again, this time causing his child (literal or figurative, again is not really important or truly knowable) that he has put a lot of time into 'finding'. whether this is his inner child, a metaphor for a dream or ideal he once had, a christian image suddenly from a God/Christ perspective not being able to find him through his 'strange ideas', or literal are all not specifically important and can possible be all of the above. point is these 'strange ideas' have come between him and something he loves again.
    v3: bringing it back to the strange ideas. the times we live in are even stranger. they are strange, in a negative way, to a christian/spiritual worldview. they are strange, as in counterintuitive, from a philosophical, universally humanitarian and/or ecologically responsible viewpoint. they are, for whatever the reason strange to him much like the strange ideas he has/hears. he is confused by the world around him not corresponding to what he thinks and feels. he had it all but it was all rooted in the fleshly world, which cannot be counted on to comfort and protect us. he, much like the u.p., has lost his former glory.
    great song, great lament, great personification of a part of this nation. and nice, subtle nudge in the direction of hope.
    Joshua27on April 17, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentFunny how a song with such few, short lines has such passionate repsonses.
    Chamoseson June 28, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commentso what's the top two?
    idigiton May 14, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe Upper Peninsula of Michigan boomed in the late 1800s and early 1900s with iron and copper mining and lumber, but when those resources were depleted the people went where the work was, like Wisconsin. I've heard that in the Keewanaw peninsula (the most northern part the "U.P.") there was around 88,000 people back then. Now there is something like 4,500. That's crazy. Today there isn't always a lot of work up there, unemployment is high, so is alcoholism.
    Carton132on October 21, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe Upper Peninsula is one of the worst places I have ever been.
    thescreamcomethon February 06, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentPeople in Michigan love the U.P. though, and the uppers are proud to be there
    Noodles15on February 27, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis seems to me to be a story of lower-class citizens of Michigan, though it could probably describe those of any state. It describes a man who lives in a crappy trailer and doesn't have much, but he's still human; he drove all night to find his child, who was presumably lost somewhere.

    The man is probably uneducated because he says his son has been revived in "strange ideas." This can mean one of two things, that his son was literally revived in a hospital that used some equipment or method that is foreign to the man (hence the strange ideas) or it could mean that his son was "revived" from a life of property by being educated. His education consisted of "ideas" that are "strange" to the man, since he is unfamiliar with them.

    Finally, he admits his confusion with the "strange times" we live in. The world is complicated and sometimes we just don't know what's right. Are the "strange ideas" right? There's no way for him to know.
    Raving Lunaticon March 02, 2005   Link

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