Earlier this year I was happy to be offered a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. I am looking forward to having uninterrupted time to work on my latest project: a series of narrative poems set in a fantastical archive populated by living documents, magical creatures, and mysterious librarians.
The money raised through Kickstarter will be used to cover the residency fee and travel costs. Anything left over will help with submission fees so I can send my manuscript to publishers.
The series of poems began with a chance encounter in the John Hay Library, a special collections archive at Brown University. There I found a photograph of Little Crow, leader of the 1862 Sioux Rebellion, in full ceremonial dress in the Homestead Steel Works. As a native of Pittsburgh raised on the myths of the mills’ heyday, I was immediately intrigued and went off in search of the story behind the photo. During my research, I allowed for tangents: paging a collection of toy soldiers, envelopes of famous people’s hair, and boxes of strange ephemera. While I found the story of the photo—Little Crow was part of a diplomatic party of Plains Indians visiting the east—the process of searching was more magical than discovering the “truth.” Every object I encountered had its own aura—residue of human touch—that I find highly compelling.
My poems seek to capture a sense of awe about archives. They follow an unnamed narrator researching the history of the Sioux who is constantly sidetracked as he encounters new and mysterious objects, each serving as an origin point from which a longer narrative unfolds. As the series progresses the objects become stranger and stranger. A giant trout has projectors for eyes; a librarian can play reel-to-reel tapes in his jaw; a monster made of teletype machines threatens to destroy the archive. I enjoy the friction created when I combine historical fact with fantastical creations.
Although the series is narrated by a made-up character, it is a deeply personal project. As a kid, I spent afternoons in the Carnegie Public Library mixing the stories in books with my own imagination. The library was also full of nooks and crannies where I could hide from evil stepmother witches or search for clues in a complex mystery only I could solve. In other words, the library taught me how to be a writer. This series of poems is my love song to libraries, and my desire to write them has become all the more urgent as my hometown library system struggles with budget cuts and collections across the nation rush to digitize.
It’s been so much fun to create all these creatures and think of so many little narratives. Now it is time to consider the series as a whole, something that is difficult to do in the couple hours I snatch before work to write poems. If I can get funded to take two weeks at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, I will use the time to revise the poems as a sequence so that they have a narrative arc and stylistic consistency. In non-jargon: make them really, really good.
You can see some of my poetry here: http://www.ehooverink.com/poetry.html
- (41 days)