Melissa Watterworth Batt

About Melissa Watterworth Batt

Archivist for Literary Manuscripts, Natural History Collections and Rare Books Collections, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries

Edwin Way Teale’s Photographs of American Nature

Photographs of nature may be many things. Some may be primarily artistic; some may be primarily scientific. In their simplest, most matter-of-fact forms, they are merely “catalogue” pictures of objects or creatures. The best nature photography, however, records both the object and the setting. It arrests, in its normal surroundings, some form of life, portraying it in a characteristic moment of its existence. Such pictures possess emotional as well as intellectual impact [and] carry us on an adventure of discovery. …

– Edwin Way Teale, Photographs of American Nature (NY: Dodd, Mead, 1972)

 

During his sixty-year career as an author and naturalist that began around 1930 with regular submissions to Popular Science magazine, Edwin Way Teale produced over fifty thousand pictures documenting his travels, nature observations, and personal discoveries. A self-taught (and self-financed) photographer, Teale worked with the utmost economy — careful in framing his shots, utilizing consumer-grade cameras and equipment, writing letters seeking advice from other photographers, and processing prints in his household dark room. By 1966, when Teale was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction, and nearly a million copies of Teale’s books had been sold, the artistic value of his photographs was recognized throughout the world.

For his book Photographs of American Nature, published when the Connecticut-based author was 73 years of age, Teale hoped to showcase the “strange and beautiful” creatures he had encountered in his lifetime. Teale selected two hundred and eighty-nine pictures from his archive of photographs to be included in the book. Half of those pictures selected appeared in print for the first time. As Teale’s choice of images for Photographs of American Nature reveal, depicting the beauty and fragility of the natural world is simple and “matter-of-fact.” Ultimately, the best nature photographs are ordinary and spontaneous, a consequence of our human instincts not only to observe the world around us, but to recognize and to bear witness.

The exhibition “Edwin Way Teale’s Photographs of American Nature” explores Teale’s skill and creativity as a photographer and the role of photography in his writing and storytelling. The exhibition features Teale’s photographs and cameras alongside a selection of notebooks, manuscripts, letters, and drafts from the Edwin Way Teale Papers preserved in UConn’s Archives & Special Collections. A highlight of the exhibition is a collection of original photographic prints on loan from the Connecticut Audubon Society Trail Wood Sanctuary, the former home of Edwin Way Teale located in Hampton, Connecticut.

Edwin Way Teale’s Photographs of American Nature
On view: February 12 through May 4, 2018
Thomas J. Dodd Research Center Gallery
University of Connecticut

Exhibition is free and open to the public Monday through Friday 9:00am to 5:00pm
Presented by: Archives & Special Collections, UConn Library

Contact: Melissa Watterworth Batt, Curator

 

Aphradisiac

 

Anna Zarra Aldrich is majoring in English, political science and journalism at the University of Connecticut.  She is a student writing intern studying historical feminist publications from the collections of Archives and Special Collections. The following guest post is one in a series to be published throughout the Spring 2018 semester.

During the 1960s and 1970s feminist writers established themselves with a distinct and demanding voice. In order to accomplish the feat of integrating a prominent female presence into the literary world, women created and utilized exclusively female publishing mediums. Women took to using alternative methods that allowed them to cultivate this unique literary culture outside the realm of the traditionally male-dominated publishing world.

In 1985, noted librarian and author Celeste West published a book titled “Words in Our Pockets: The Feminist Writers’ Guild handbook on how to gain power, get published & get paid.” The book provided an in-depth look at the publishing world through a feminist lens and provided women with resources and options for alternative paths to publication.

The cover of the book depicts a woman’s portrait composed of the words of a poem by Denise Levertov’s from which the book gets its title. It reads: “But for us the road/ unfurls itself, we count the/words in our pockets.”

The introduction of the book states that, “The present wave of feminism is…creating a women’s cultural renaissance, the first since matrifocal times. At last, we are building, in large numbers, our own literary tradition, finding our own audience, and from these, shaping a world view.”

This book emphasizes the fact that many of the most influential members of the movement have been writers who use the power of the written word to express the urgency and necessity of the changes they demanded.

West’s book begs the question: “Who among us can afford silence?” West wanted to encourage women to make their voices heard through the literary mire that was oversaturated with male perspectives.

The book goes through a basic how to process for practical elements of publication including writing proposals, making sense of the legal jargon in contracts and financing options. The book also deals with the sexism of the industry. The book provides advice on how to deal with people, namely powerful men, who refuse to take women writers seriously and list feminist publishers and a guide on self-publishing as a means to circumvent discouraging male publishers.

“You are a writer, not a wallflower. Why wait for some gentleman publisher to sweep you into his arms and carry you off to the Big House?” West proposes.

In an article published in the summer 1979 issue of “Chrysalis” magazine, West wrote “Book publishing, like all industries, is controlled by rich, white, heterosexual men. To retain this power, their books naturally reinstate status quo attitudes of privilege and discrimination.”

The article cites the figure that 70 percent of books published were produced by 3.3 percent of the over 6000 publishing houses that existed at the time. West calls independent, alternative press outlets “the slice of tomorrow.”

The book’s engagement with the challenges female writers faced showed that even as women encouraged each other to write, the established system often operated to keep them excluded. This created a space for female-run literary publications that provided a platform for women writers who were not welcomed into traditional literary circles.

“Aphra” was an feminist literary magazine published quarterly from 1969 to 1976 out of New York City. The magazine got its namesake from the pioneering English poet, playwright and author Aphra Behn (1640-1689) who was the first woman known to have earned her living by writing.

“Aphra’s” mission statement was “Free women thinking, doing, being.” In the preamble to their first edition, the editors state that the purpose of the magazine is to provide women with an outlet to express themselves: “We submit that one reason for the form of the current upsurge in feminism…is that the mass media provides such biased and commercially oriented material. The literary and entertainment scene are dominated by male stereotypes, male fantasies, male wish fulfillment, a male power structure,” echoing West’s complaints.

The magazine was a clear response to the male domination of the literary field in contemporary American society and historically. Each issue contained a collection of “Aphra-isms” which were quotes from feminist figures such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth and more modern feminists like Kate Millet. The section also featured historical and modern examples of sexism from literature and the news.

“Aphra” published work from a variety of authors, including Margaret Atwood and Alice Walker, who each provided a unique take on feminist issues of the day yet they all had an underlying tone that was unapologetic and focused on confronting the problems they observed in society.

In a short story by one of the magazine’s editors, Elizabeth Fisher, titled “My Wife,” she explores the downside of the sexual revolution which allowed and encouraged women to enjoy the sensual pleasures of sex. The story is told from the perspective of a man who believes he has the honor of sexually awakening his future wife. The man becomes disenchanted with his wife soon after they are married and her body changes as a result of her pregnancies and their sex life naturally dwindles. The kicker of the story is the conclusion when the husband overhears his wife admitting to a friend that she faked every single orgasm he thought she had had with him. This sends the narrator into a devastating existential crisis as his fragile male sexual ego is absolutely destroyed.

“I look at the children. They’re my daughters, but they’re hers too. Will they, too, grow up to betray me and their husbands, a man’s whole raison d’etre?…There’s nothing left. How can I live now, how can I go on?”

This desperate conclusion to the story shows how a female writer revealed the negative side of the sexual revolution. Since women were now allowed to admit they enjoy sex, they were expected to. Despite this revolution in sexual philosophy and the growing availability of a variety of birth control methods, male views of sex remained chauvinistic and self-centered. The narrator displays a kind of toxic masculinity that created a culture in which women felt obligated to fake orgasms and feign pleasure. These women felt they had to play the role of the sexually liberated woman even when reality remained stalled in antiquated sexual attitudes that prioritized male sexuality and pleasure.

An unsigned editorial in the second issue of the magazine addresses the difficulties the second-wave feminist movement faces in terms of measurable accomplishments. The first iteration of the women’s movement in the early 20th century was focused primarily on women’s suffrage. The passage of the 19th amendment in 1920 was a clear victory for the movement and led to its dormancy for the next forty years. The goals of feminists in the 1960s, aside from fighting to achieve the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, were geared toward largescale social change. The author of the editorial astutely observes that, “It is an aim which all too often proves illusory since you can’t legislate orgasm — produce it by fiat, despite all the promises which seem to say, ‘Let there be orgasm!’”

In the spring of 1971, “Aphra” had a special “Whore Issue”. This issue dealt with problems of women being condemned for sexual promiscuity as well as the exploitation of women as sex workers.

An editorial by Fisher argues that the problem with sex is that it has been made into a commodity. Women are defined by their sexual relationship with men as a wife, a mother, a mistress or a whore. Fisher writes that by viewing sex in these terms, female pleasure is devalued and the woman is transformed into a dehumanized sex object.

While “Aphra” was primarily a literary journal, through Fisher’s editorial leadership it engaged questions of the sexist nature of sex. Fisher also wrote repeatedly on the role of men in procreation, which had recently become optional given advancements in invitro fertilization.

A similarly satirical take on issues of sexual freedom can be found in a 1973 issue of another feminist literary magazine, “Velvet Glove.” A story by Susan Watkins follows a woman working in a pharmacy who is required to inquire if a customer is married before she is allowed to sell them contraception. The female protagonist asks her condescending male manager if people could not just easily lie and he tells her she must ask anyway in compliance with the law. The protagonist’s retort is to wonder if she should also be required to ask young women buying menstrual products if they’re 12-years old. This story is another example of satirical writing which was clearly a way feminists saw fit to combat the social ills they observed.

Feminist have long been thought of as humorless and in modern times many even refer to them as “feminazis.” While much of the work published in literary journals like “Aphra” and “Velvet Glove” is of a serious nature, it also provides women with a platform to express a brand of humor that would not have been well-received by a male audience.

Even “Words in our Pockets” participates in this emergence of a female comedic culture as the copyright information on the inside of their front cover warns readers that “a Surveillance MicroblastchipTM embedded in this spine will blow you to bits in the event of unauthorized copying.”

When women were writing to and for other women, they embraced the satirical and humorous side of the movement. Women could rarely do this publicly for fear of being dismissed as frivolous; but women’s publications provided women with an outlet for their special brand of ingroup feminist humor.

Women began working their way into the literary world earnestly and consciously during the 1960s and have not turned back since. In 1960 only 24 percent of the books that landed on the New York Times Bestseller List were written by women. That number fluctuated each year but never rose above 40 percent until 1992. Since then, the gender divide has been roughly equal, though never exceeding 50 percent. It is not a stretch to say that publications like the ones described here have helped establish the feminist literary tradition that has allowed modern female writers to have much more proportional representation in the field.

“Words in our Pockets” ends on a poignant and unmistakably optimistic note. The second to last page contains the words “The End.” When the reader turns the page, she reads: “The statement on the other side of this page is false.” And clearly, that latter statement was correct.

-Anna Zarra Aldrich

 

 

The Proper Sculpture: A Week with the Charles Olson Papers

 

The following guest post is by Stefanie Heine who was was awarded a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant in 2017 to conduct research in Archives and Special Collections. Dr. Heine studied English, Philosophy and Comparative Literature at the University of Zürich. She was a Research and Teaching Assistant at the Department of Comparative Literature in Zurich. After completing her PhD (cf. Visible Words and Chromatic Pulse. Virginia Woolf’s Writing, Impressionist Painting, Maurice Blanchot’s Image. Wien: Turia + Kant, 2014), she started working on a post-doc project on the poetics of breathing and she is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto (Centre for Comparative Literature).

 

“we are ourselves both the instrument of discovery and the instrument of definition”

“this instant, […] you on this instant, […] you, figuring it out, and acting, so”

– Charles Olson, Human Universe

 

Without my knowledge, the GPS of the car I rented at Boston Logan airport was set to “discovery route”. I drove for over three hours, red maple, black oak, sweet birch and white ash making me indifferent to the fact that map turned to maze.

I arrived at the University of Connecticut on the day of the solar eclipse. Caught in those first moments of archive fever, I probably would have forgotten about it, if my partner hadn’t texted me: “You should go out now.” When I did, I couldn’t see. Only for a few seconds the blaze yielded to a clear-cut sickle through the glasses a woman lent me in front of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

These two scenes composing the mood of my arrival at the Charles Olson Research Collection kept determining my exploration of the archive, and they turned out to be instances where Olson’s paths crossed mine. On the one hand, they were points where my own research met Olson’ methods. “methodos […] turns out to be meta hodos […] the principle of—PATH”, “the way the path is known”, Olson explicates in a letter to Robert Creeley in June 1952 (152). The way the path is known involves the person on it and for Olson, research is inextricably linked to the experience of the individual who conducts it, in the very moment it is conducted. On the other hand, there are more specific correlations between what I encountered on the way to and through the archive and Olson’s methodological and poetological approaches. The title of a section of the Maximus Poems, “Each Night is No Loss, It is a daily eclipse, / by the Earth, of the Sun” (448) can be read in line with these approaches. The phenomenon of eclipse could be considered as something that happens on a continual basis when we do research and write: instances of blindness and sudden illumination reoccur, again and again. In an unpublished essay I came across in the archive, Olson explicitly comments on the overlaps of “blindness” and “recognition” in the process of literary production, the creation of poetic form: “A form does only disclose itself if a man does go blind.” (Form, no more than means, is caused) With his emphasis on the writer’s or researcher’s sensation of blindness (literary writing and scientific discovery are inextricably linked for him), Olson counteracts what he considers as the most dominate way in which knowledge is achieved, the ‘Western logos’, in which the rational mind at clear daylight engages in classification and abstraction. This method is what for Olson prevents an immediate involvement of the writer or researcher with their objects of discovery and destroys the “kinetics of the thing” focused on (“Projective Verse” 16). In the archive, the proximity to the new material as such prevented any critical distance for me. The massive amount of writing held in the Charles Olson Research Collection offers too much input to process straightaway; most of the time, I was in a haze, reading and copying as much as I could, assembling material to be ‘investigated’ later. But maybe the point where I was closest to ‘knowledge-bringing event[s]’ in Olson’s sense (he borrows that term from Maurice Merleau-Ponty, for example in A man’s life is a continual allegory) was in the archive itself.

One of these events particularly stands out: in one of Olson’s early notebooks from 1945, a passage on syntax caught my attention. Being aware that this must be one of Olson’s the very first written reflections on literary composition and one of the first attempts to formulate principles for his own writing, I was excited. But my enthusiasm was soon overshadowed by a banal fact: Olson’s handwriting, which needs some time to get used to in general, is specifically hard to decipher on these two pages of the tiny notebook covered densely with words in pencil. I was entering a domain where language becomes utterly private and is almost impenetrable because of its singularity. “Syntax is a key”, Olson writes – and it seemed to me at first sight that it would be denied to me to unlock the gate presented by Olson. “I have a hunch I allow too much of … into my syntax.” I was too curious about what he thought he allows too much of in his syntax to turn away from the passage. When I met Melissa Watterworth Batt on the next day, knowing her experience with Olson’s manuscripts, I asked her to help me with the passage. The collaborative effort turned out to be fruitful – in the process of thoroughly scrutinizing the text, one word after the other came to light. We turned the notebook around in our hands to change the angle so that a fresh perspective might change curves into letters and a magnifying glass helped to make visible what our eyes failed to see. We zoomed in and out digital images of the page on laptop and iPhone – lines turning into pixelated patches and then to a “b”, an “l”, an “o”. The last hitherto obscure word became legible when I was back in my hotel room in Vernon, and there it was:

I tend to think that I need to maintain a more natural syntax than the process of my thinking + feeling sometimes accomplishes. I have a hunch I allow too much of the complication of both to intrude into my syntax. Yet how to arrive at an objective language without changing the syntax? Nouns, verbs, and images are the answer (see Yeats or Pound for this). Actually, of course, all this is technical + the thing will come out of me as a poem. Otherwise, no. So I must continue + be led by my nose, willy-nilly. I have no choices. Hammer each step of the way. You have rid yourself of the orphic, a little. Continue to beat with the hammer to get the proper sculpture.

The proper sculpture – the image Olson uses to describe a poem in process ceased to be a metaphor when I had the deciphered passage in front of me. In fact, the whole process of deciphering echoed the activity of a stonecarver. Or, rather, the archeological experience with Mayan glyphs Olson describes in his letters to Robert Creeley in 1951. Tracking the shape of penciled lines was a sensual experience of words as things, graphite on paper, it was a physical engagement with Olson’s written material that may come close to what Olson perceived in Lerma while digging out the stones on which the glyphs are engraved, holding words in his hand as solid objects. The transformation of curves into letters and words I observed while deciphering allowed me to partake in a “kinetics of the thing”. I was involved in an act of paying attention to “what happens BETWEEN things”, which, according to Olson is one of the last “acts of liberation science has to offer” (“The Gate and the Center” 169). Between things: between the words on the page, between my eyes on the page and the digital image, between my eyes and Melissa’s.

Washington Fall 1945 I. Charles Olson Research Collection. No. 55. October 25, 1945 – December 19, 1945

The process of deciphering is not the only way in which I experienced the archival material in its physicality. A preoccupation with Olson’s papers does not only involve investigating the contents of his thought. The writings archived in Storrs do not only occupy the mind, they are things to be experienced with all senses. The material dimension of his texts does not only become perceptible through the resistance caused by Olson’s handwriting – when the words’ meaning is interrupted by their particular shape. It is primarily the things Olson used to write on that strike the eye: besides notebooks, notepads and sheets of different size, colour and texture, and objects he found in front of him like a paper placemat, he scribbled notes between the printed words of flyers and booklets, even his passport.

The principle extrications and new coordinates now called for. Charles Olson Research Collection. Prose No. 40. Holograph/typescript. 8p. ca. September – December 1951

Olson’s passport. Charles Olson Research Collection. Annotated. No. 64. 1957.

You can’t use words as ideas. Charles Olson Research Collection. Holograph. October 1964.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After this personal account of my “discovery route” through the Olson archive, a few words on the research project that led me to Storrs: In the first chapter of my planned book titled “Poetics of Breathing” I investigate how breath is discussed as a compositional principle in the context of the Black Mountain School and the Beat Generation. The focus is on concrete attempts to establish an embodied poetics of breathing. In this context, I explore how Olson sketches compositional principles based on breath in essays, poetological manifestoes, notes and letters about his own writing practice. The unpublished material I found at the Charles Olson Research Collection gives me further insights in the development of Olson’s poetics of breathing and the Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Grant I was awarded enabled me to make important steps on the path towards my book.

 

 -Stefanie Heine

  

Works Cited

Archival Material

Olson, Charles. A man’s life is a continual allegory. Charles Olson Research Collection, University of Connecticut. Prose No. 136. Typescript. 4p. December 26-27, 1963.

Olson, Charles. Olson’s passport. Charles Olson Research Collection, University of Connecticut. Annotated. No. 64. 1957.

Olson, Charles. The principle extrications and new coordinates now called for. Charles Olson Research Collection, University of Connecticut. Prose No. 40. Holograph/typescript. 8p. ca. September – December 1951.

Olson, Charles. Washington Fall 1945 I. Charles Olson Research Collection, University of Connecticut. No. 55. October 25, 1945 – December 19, 1945.

Olson, Charles. You can’t use words as ideas. Charles Olson Research Collection, University of Connecticut. Holograph. October 1964.

 

Published Material

Olson, Charles and Robert Creeley. Charles Olson & Robert Creeley: The Complete Correspondence. Volume 10. Ed. Richard Blevins. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1996.

Olson, Charles. “Human Universe”. Collected Prose. Ed. Donald Allen and Benjamin Friedlander. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1997, 155-166.

Olson, Charles. “Projective Verse”. Selected Writings. Ed. Robert Creeley. New York: New Directions, 1966.

Olson, Charles. The Gate and the Center. Collected Prose. Ed. Donald Allen and Benjamin Friedlander. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1997. 168-173.

Olson, Charles. The Maximus Poems. Ed. George F. Butterick. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

 

 

 

A Tale Of Two Art Journals

Anna Zarra Aldrich is majoring in English, political science and journalism at the University of Connecticut.  She is a student writing intern studying historical feminist publications from the collections of Archives and Special Collections. The following guest post is one of a series to be published throughout the Spring 2018 semester.

The second advent of the feminist movement that washed over American society in the 1960s and 1970s like a tidal wave emphasized a pervasive message of empowerment which manifested in a variety of periodicals during this period, including art journals.

Women had largely been excluded from the world of fine art for centuries as geniuses like Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Picasso, Dali and Monet were celebrated and revered while their female contemporaries, such as Georgia O’Keefe or Frida Kahlo, were few and far between as their talent went largely unencouraged and unrewarded.

“The Feminist Art Journal” was published quarterly from 1972 to 1977 out of Brooklyn, New York by Feminist Art Journal Inc. One of the early editions of the journal from 1973 addresses the idea that women have created art for the centuries during which they were strictly confined to the home. An article titled: “Quilts: The Great American Art,” discusses how quilts, tapestries and other home décor have acted as mediums of female artistic expression that have historically been disregarded by men as mere frivolous decorations. The article states that, “Women have always made art. But for most women, the arts highest valued by male society have been closed to them for just that reason.”

An editorial from the same issue emphasizes the need of women to “rediscover their own history.” One of the primary aims of “The Feminist Art Journal” was to reclaim women’s place in art history through articles such as the one on quilts and by discussing issues of female representation in classical art. An intriguing article on Marie De Medici from the Summer 1977 issue explores how the powerful Florentine heir-turned-French-monarch commissioned portraits of herself and her life accomplishments like those that were traditionally done for prominent males of the period. Medici also pointedly decorated her palace with statues of great women like Saint Bathilde and George Sand. The article emphasizes how Marie de Medici understood the power of art as a political statement, underscoring another one of the journal’s core messages: art is political.

Interestingly, a short-lived lesbian feminist journal published from 1973 to 1975, the “Amazon Quarterly: A Lesbian-Feminist Art Journal” expressed a much different viewpoint from “The Feminist Art Journal”. “Amazon Quarterly” was published from the other side of the country, in Oakland, California by Amazon Press. It should be noted that both of these journals were published independently, sustained by revenue from subscriptions, single issue sales and advertisements. Both journals also had exclusively female editors.

The “Amazon Quarterly” commended women’s lack of participation in the male-dominated art world, in which they were routinely objectified in the works of male artists, rather than seeking to place women’s accomplishments within this patriarchal frame work.

Both “The Feminist Art Journal” and “Amazon Quarterly” promoted and provided a platform for female artists to share their literature, poetry, drawings, photography. However, “Amazon Quarterly” made promoting the art of women, specifically lesbians, its primary artistic goal, rather than engaging in discussions of history.

The division in purpose and ideology of these two journals which served, broadly, the same role, reflected a deeper division in the feminist movement between lesbians and straight women. Some lesbians believed women could not fully participate in the true revolution of the feminist movement so long as they were still sexually involved with their male oppressors, a radical idea that is discussed in articles published in the journal.

In an article, “Distinctions: The Circle Game” from the February 1973 issue of
“Amazon Quarterly” written by one of the editors, Laurel Galana, whose byline is simply a familiar: Laurel, explores these divisions within the movement.

Laurel breaks down the group of women who are feminists into increasingly small subcultures from lesbians to “new lesbians” to dykes. The “new lesbians” Laurel describes had several verboten relations including those with men and straight women, whom they viewed as “men’s women.”

Laurel herself abides by these taboos, she explains, “My energy, my time, my sisterly love was indirectly useful to the male for keeping his woman content. And secondly, I decided not to relate to straight women because they already had made a choice which did not include me – that is all of me.”

The piece goes on to criticize lesbians who distinguish themselves based on class, believing that such internal divisions will only cause the movement to fracture and be less effective. She seems to miss the irony of the fact that she believes lesbians should not associate with straight feminists and form a united front of all feminist women.

Much of the art and especially the literature published in the journal reflected the fact that “Amazon Quarterly” branded itself as a periodical that intended to cater specifically to lesbian women. Many of the pieces published in the journal deal with tales and the feelings associated with homosexual awakenings and attraction. The publication had an entire issue dedicated to the topic of sexuality as their swan song before shutting down in 1977.

While the journal ceased publication in 1977, the editors went on to run Bluestocking Books, a publishing house which published a few novels including “The Violent Sex” by Laurel Holliday. Holliday’s book confronted the evolution of masculine sexuality and behavior that has led to the sexual and social oppression of women.

Despite their differences, both these journals considered art in an expansive sense, including all forms of visual and literary art, and stressed the importance of the inclusion of the female perspective in them.

While these two journals had different audiences and somewhat different goals, they both served to underscore the important idea that art is political, and that women had to understand how they could use any and all forms of art to express their ideas and achieve their objectives.

The art of many female artists of the period, during which feminist art truly began to flourish and find its foothold, was clearly in line with this philosophy. Some notable works include Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party,” which portrays a dinner party of 39 notable historical women, and Hannah Wilke’s avant garde “Starification Object Series,” a series of photographs for which she covered her body with wads of gum folded to resemble female genitalia.

These two journals and the art they supported show how women utilized the arts to promote the feminist agenda as they worked toward achieving social and political equality despite divisions within the movement.

In a 1977 interview published in “Chrysalis” magazine, Chicago commented on the value of art to the feminist movement.

“Art is particularly important for women and can catapult women into a different realm of consciousness by symbolizing and objectifying our experience. That expression, that impulse, has such potential power, and it is that power that society tries to contain by trivializing, by repressing, by suppressing the art impulse,” Chicago said. “As long as women participate in that process, we will never be able to realize our full creative potential. We must bust out of that, just absolutely bust out of that and reclaim art as the basic outpouring of the human spirit and pour out our songs and all our feelings and all our beliefs and all our visions in a way that everyone can hear.”

-Anna Zarra Aldrich

 

 

UConn Archives to House Maurice Sendak Artwork

Jo Lincoln Photo, courtesy of Archives & Special Collections, UConn LibraryOn behalf of the University of Connecticut, we are thrilled to announce that Archives and Special Collections will preserve and make available the artwork of Maurice Sendak.

The finished artwork for his published books, and certain manuscripts, sketches, and other related materials created by Maurice Sendak, considered the leading artist of children’s books in the 20th century, will be hosted and maintained at the University of Connecticut under an agreement approved today by UConn’s Board of Trustees.   Read more…

 

 

In Search of Walt Dropo

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The following is a guest blog post by Rebecca A.R. Edwards, Professor in the Department of History at Rochester Institute of Technology. Dr. Edwards was recently awarded a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant to conduct research in Archives and Special Collections. Her research supports a book project tentatively titled Play Ball: Sport, Community, and Memory in Connecticut,” a microhistory that “utilizes local sports history to explore the formation of community identity, social capital, and public memory.”

Sometimes, historical projects get personal. I am a historian at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. I teach, among other things, the history of baseball and have a long-standing interest in sports history. I could say that my current project is a sports history, and that would be true, but it is also a family history. When I was a girl, growing up in southeastern Connecticut, my paternal grandfather, Danny Rourke, was famous. He played both semi-professional basketball and semi-professional baseball in the state, from 1935-1955. In this way, he was like so many other men in Connecticut in those years, as I have been discovering in the course of my research for a book on this lost sporting world of eastern Connecticut.

We have lost the category of “semi-professional athlete” today. These were men who played organized, competitive sports, largely without long-term professional aspirations. Their basketball was not played to lead to them to the NBA; their baseball was not a road to the MLB. It was an end in itself. Forrest C. ‘Phog’ Allen, the celebrated University of Kansas basketball coach, argued that their play was, in fact, professional. In 1937, he wrote, “The professional—paid or unpaid—plays to win at any cost. Herein lies the significant difference between amateurism and professionalism, whether it be independent or collegiate. When competition becomes a business, it becomes professional. By such interpretation professionalism is not determined by the acceptance of money. The tenor of most independent teams who play outside schedules is professional in spirit, for their stress is on winning and not on the sport for the sport’s sake.”(i) He continued, “The universally accepted definition for a professional player is one who receives compensation for athletic skill or knowledge. If we interpret ‘compensation’ to mean either fame or money or its equivalent, this definition holds.”(ii)

In this way, my work seeks to recover the hidden history of these local professionals. These independent teams that my grandfather played on no longer exist, teams like Pep’s Flashes, the Shymas, and the Danielson Elks. And yet these were teams that attracted hundreds of fans, garnered lots of local press coverage, and brought their players lasting fame. And sometimes, though comparatively rarely, they produced a professional athlete from their ranks.

My research brought me into contact with what one might call the pre-history of one of those athletes. He is pictured in the photograph, from the Norwich Bulletin of 31 March 1941, below.  He really is famous. Find him yet? He is a very young Walt Dropo, then in his senior year of high school. He is in the back row, all the way to the right. Dropo was the youngest member of Pep’s Flashes, pictured here after winning the Norwich Bulletin-Record basketball tournament.

The captain of the team was my grandfather, seated at the far left. The Sunday sports page announced the news of their victory. “Pep’s Flashes Win Bulletin-Record Tournament, 48-37; Jimmy Hoffman and Danny Rourke Are the Stars.” The game was played before a “packed house of about 450 noisy customers…making it the third night that the games were played before a capacity audience.” Pep’s led the entire way, and though the “game was never close enough to get the fans steamed up…it was bruising, tough basketball from start to finish and nobody was disappointed.” The Norwich Record praised the team, saying, “Pep’s really looked the part of champions. Their passing and their shooting was a beautiful thing to watch and were altogether too classy” for their opponents, the Doco Eagles of Norwich. Hoffman was the game’s high scorer, while Rourke played “a marvelous floor game.” They had help from ‘Boots’ Dropo, who contributed nine points.(iii)

‘Boots’ Dropo, as he was then known, would go on from Plainfield High School to attend the University of Connecticut, as probably everyone already knows. Upon Dropo’s death in 2010, Coach Dee Rowe called him “the greatest all-around athlete this school has ever seen.” Dropo played football, basketball, and baseball for the Huskies. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 9th round of the 1946 NFL draft. He was drafted in the first round of the 1947 BAA (Basketball Association of America, a pro-league pre-NBA) draft by the Providence Steamrollers. But he turned it all down to sign with the Red Sox organization in 1947.

In 1950, Walt Dropo was the American League Rookie of the Year, the first Red Sox to be named Rookie of the Year. He finished sixth in the AL MVP race. His .583 slugging percentage that year was second only to Joe DiMaggio (.585). “New England was full of Walt Dropos then,” Bill Reynolds writes, “small town kids who stole the hearts of their communities because of the way they played this New Game.”(iv) But that was still ahead of him. As late as 1946, you could have seen Walt Dropo playing basketball in a 200 seat auditorium in southeastern Connecticut with my grandfather.

By then they were both playing for the Shymas, who would also win the Norwich Bulletin-Record title. Dropo is seen here, in the semi-finals of the tournament.

The press coverage noted that Dropo and Rourke were key members of the team. “The Shyma club five of Taftville steamrolled to a 65 to 49 victory over the Windham Packards of Willimantic at the Norton Gym Saturday night to win the eighth annual Norwich Bulletin-Record basketball tournament before a capacity crowd of better than 600 fans….The Packards held the lead twice in the opening minutes of play, 2 to 0 and 4 to 2, but after that point they didn’t stand a chance as the Villagers swept down the floor time and again using the height of MacDonald and Walt Dropo and the floor work of Bill Kelly and Danny Rourke to great advantage. Besides giving a brilliant offensive exhibition throughout the contest, the Shyma put up a tight defense that the Willimantic combination had plenty of trouble cracking.”v Another account concluded that, in winning the tournament, the Shyma had demonstrated that they were “the outstanding hoop combination in eastern Connecticut during the past year.”(vi)

Dropo left for the Red Sox farm system the following year, in 1947. But he left having already played for two different championship basketball teams in Connecticut. As we remember his sports history today, we largely assume it starts with the Red Sox. His time in college sports is seen as a prelude to his professional career. My work allows me to see that he brought a champion’s play to UConn with him. He had been playing alongside semi-pro athletes since he was in high school. That was the drive he brought with him to Storrs.

The distance between the professional world of sports that Dropo would enter and the semi-professional levels of sport he was leaving behind was not very wide. Professionals were a part of their local communities then and semi-professionals were treated with much the same reverence and respect. October 14, 1950, was Walt Dropo Day in his hometown of Moosup, Connecticut. Dropo came into town with a barnstorming baseball team, the Birdie Tebbett’s All-Stars. George ‘Birdie’ Tebbett’s was a catcher with the Red Sox. Also barnstorming with Tebbett’s team that fall were Phil Rizzuto and Johnny Pesky.

They faced a home team, put together for the occasion, called the Connecticut All-Stars. Walt’s brother, Milt Dropo, himself a star athlete at the University of Connecticut, managed the All-Stars. Playing for them in right field was Danny Rourke. He was at that point playing for the New London Raiders in the Class B Colonial League, an effort to revive minor league baseball in southern New England. The original Colonial League had folded in 1915. This Colonial League was formed for the 1947 season; its last season was 1950. Walt Dropo Day was the last time that Dropo and Rourke took a field together.

Dropo’s career brought him to the MLB. Rourke’s career ended in Class B. Yet, the two men shared an athletic journey together that dated back to 1941. My grandfather is still remembered in some circles in southeastern Connecticut today, where I still sometimes meet old fans who call me “Danny Rourke’s granddaughter.” So I know sporting memories can be long. I had wondered, as I came to the Archives to search for images of Dropo’s college career, how well he was remembered on campus today. I worried a bit as the young archivist, whose name will remain unmentioned to protect the guilty, admitted that he had never heard of him until I started asking for files to be pulled. (He was brave to admit that to me and he was otherwise a perfectly nice professional, just to be clear.)

I was worried for nothing. As I settled into the Nathan Hale Hotel, I stopped at their pub for a beer, after a long day in the archives. I glanced over my head and found that I had taken a seat under Walt Dropo.

‘Boots’ Dropo. Still here, after all these years.

 

– Rebecca A.R. Edwards

 

Notes:

i  Forrest C. Allen, Better Basketball: Technique, Tactics, and Tales (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1937), 7. ‘Phog’ Allen coached at Kansas from 1919-1956. He coached the Jayhawks to victory in the NCAA tourney in 1952, the same year that he coached the Olympic basketball team to a gold medal at the Helsinki games. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959.
ii  Allen, 8.
iii  All coverage from “Third Annual Bulletin Record Tourney.” Undated clipping. Potts family scrapbook.
iv  Reynolds, Our Game, 7.
v  “Shymas Take Bulletin-Record Tourney With 65-49 Win,” Norwich Record (March 31, 1946), 13. From Rourke family scrapbook.
vi  “Bulletin Record Tournament Won By Shyma Club.” Undated press clipping. Rourke family scrapbook.

25th Annual Connecticut Children’s Book Fair THIS Weekend – With Exhibition on View

For 25 years, the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair has welcomed families, collectors, teachers, students and librarians to UConn to meet and to hear talented, award-winning authors and illustrators discuss their work.  This weekend on November 4 and 5, we are excited to once again foster the enjoyment of reading among Connecticut’s youth with two days of dynamic programming. The Book Fair takes place at the Rome Commons Ballroom on the UConn campus — visitor information can be found on the event website.

Archives and Special Collections celebrates the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair in this milestone year by featuring the collections of authors and illustrators found in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection (NCLC). The Book Fair is also an opportunity to highlight recent research conducted in the papers and archives of NCLC authors and illustrators.

The following is an excerpt of an exhibition essay by Nicolas Ochart, Student Exhibitions Intern in Archives and Special Collections, for an exhibition currently on view in the McDonald Reading Room in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. This semester, Nicolas is responsible for conceiving and developing small-scale exhibitions that highlight archival material found in the collections. He hopes to pursue professional curatorial work in an effort to promote the work and experiences of marginalized and underrepresented communities in the United States. In December, Nicolas will receive his B.A. in Art History from the University of Connecticut.

The Northeast Children’s Literature Collection was developed in 1989 to collect and preserve the history of children’s literature and illustrations, and comprises the archives of over 120 notable authors and artists. Among completed editions of beloved children’s books, the collection also includes countless preliminary sketches, letters, dummies, manuscripts, notes, and correspondence with family, editors, and other writers and artists.

The collection’s extensive holdings have made the University of Connecticut a nexus for scholars and children’s book writers and illustrators across the nation interested in studying the literary and aesthetic qualities of the form. In an effort to support and encourage study of the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection, Archives and Special Collections have developed a number of awards for researchers, including the Billie M. Levy Travel and Research Grant and the James Marshall Fellowship. Grantees and Fellows have written on such varied topics as queer American Jewishness in the art and writings of Maurice Sendak, as well as influences of modernism and fashion design in the work of Esphyr Slobodkina. Aspiring and established authors and illustrators have also looked at papers by James Marshall, Natalie Babbitt, Tomie dePaola, and Eleanor Estes for guidance in their own practice.

The objects on display in Archives and Special Collections represent just some of the archival materials past Fellows and Grantees have found noteworthy in their research. These objects also dialogue with others in Archives and Special Collections, and together offer rich and surprising stories of classic tales.

The collection’s extensive and cross-historical nature provides a visual and narrative mapping of the perseverance of certain character types and situations. One of the most persistent topics of interest in children’s literature concerns problems that arise from class conflicts, and the tensions between members of the aristocracy, bourgeoisie, and working class communities. Where a character is from and the spaces they are permitted to navigate reveals much about their personality, goals, and interactions with other characters in their environment. These works show desire and punishment, as characters’ morality largely dictates whether they are granted social mobility or afflicted with poverty or other penalties.

Even if clear moral distinctions between classes are not drawn, the picturing of difference is almost always apparent. The objects displayed in Archives and Special Collections represent a sampling of the visualization of class and “otherness” in popular children’s fables and fairy tales, as well as the ways in which characters’ bodies, properties, and reputations are threatened by these factors.

We encourage exploration of the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection, or explore the blog for Archives and Special Collections, to learn more about scholarship conducted by visiting academics, writers, and artists.

– Nicolas Ochart

 

 

Harry Allard Is Missing! Collaborations of James Marshall and Harry Allard in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection

The following guest post is by Jerrold Connors, an award-winning application developer, writer and children’s book author and illustrator from California. He was recently awarded the James Marshall Fellowship to pursue a picture book project based on Harry Allard’s Miss Nelson stories. The James Marshall Fellowship encourages the use of unique materials in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection and provides financial support to authors and illustrators for travel to University of Connecticut’s Archives and Special Collections to conduct their research.

James Marshall, considered by Maurice Sendak to be one of the wittiest and most genuine children’s book author-illustrators, created the popular George and Martha stories, the charming Fox readers and the everlasting Miss Nelson picture books. He wrote and illustrated most of his stories himself, collaborated on several others with his friend and co-author Harry Allard, and illustrated the works of a few others. Marshall published upwards of 80 books from 1967 until 1992 when he died, aged 50, from AIDS. Though awarded few professional honors, Marshall is considered by many as one of the picture book greats—his works are held alongside those of Maurice Sendak and Arnold Lobel (with whom Marshall shared close friendships) as classics.

Miss Nelson Gets a Telephone Call (2014)

Despite growing up an avid reader in the early 1980s, I have no memories of reading any James Marshall books. It was only later, as a teenager reading to my nephew and niece, that I would discover the Miss Nelson books. And it was much later as a young adult reading picture books for my own enjoyment that I would discover George and Martha. I became a confirmed James Marshall fan and sought to find as many of his works as I could. I can think of very few creators whose entire body of work—unmistakable for its sense of fun, economy of language, subtle play between words and illustration and great respect for his young audience—I hold in higher regard.

Relatively little has been written about Marshall’s life and works but I have tracked down what I could and have come to consider myself something of a Marshall expert, so it was with great surprise and interest that I discovered a fourth Miss Nelson book, Miss Nelson Gets a Telephone Call, written, illustrated and self-published by Harry Allard in 2014, twenty two years after James Marshall’s death.

Miss Nelson Gets a Telephone Call is a peculiar work. It features all the Miss Nelson standards: a kind teacher, a befuddled principal, an elementary school setting, and a mystery surrounding a secret identity (the hallmark of the Miss Nelson series). But it also has an enormous cast of characters, a generous amount of exposition, a bizarre wordiness (gothic adjectives such as graustarkian, eldritch and stygian abound) and a distinctly creepy tone. And it is missing, notably, any children.

All these facts made me wonder how similar Miss Nelson Gets a Telephone Call is (if at all) to the original Miss Nelson trilogy. It’s a known fact that James Marshall heavily edited the authors’ texts that passed his drawing table (an unusual practice for an illustrator) but I wanted to know just how far Marshall went in shaping Allard’s manuscripts into the illustrated stories we have come to know. The books credited to Marshall and Allard are nearly identical in voice, pacing and humor to those credited solely to Marshall. So much so that it has even been suggested that Harry Allard might have been an invention, like Marshall’s “cousin” Edward Marshall, to serve as a pseudonym. While this would be wholly appropriate given the Miss Nelson tradition of dual-identity and disguise, it is not true. Harry Allard was a real person.

The two became acquainted at Trinity College in San Antonio, Texas where Allard taught French and Marshall was an undergraduate. An academic, Allard held a Masters degree and PhD in French from Northwestern and Yale. He was an admirer of French illustrators and drew and sketched as a hobby and in this sense found a kindred spirit in the artistically minded Marshall. They collaborated on a few picture books with Allard credited as author and James Marshall as illustrator before developing the character of Miss Nelson. As the story goes, Allard called Marshall at three in the morning and said “Miss Nelson is missing!” This bizarre non sequitur became the seed that would grow into three books about the teacher and her class.

The Northeast Children’s Literature Collection holds a rich and rewarding amount of materials related to the working relationship between James Marshall and Harry Allard. Of those materials related to the Miss Nelson book, the most complete were those for the second Miss Nelson book Marshall and Allard worked on together, Miss Nelson Is Back.

Miss Nelson Is Back: In the collection in Archives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut is a series of dummies for Miss Nelson Is Back. The earliest of these dummies hints at what must have been Harry Allard’s original manuscript for this story. The story opens with Miss Nelson having to leave her class for a tonsillectomy. Filling in for her is a new character, Mr. Otis Delancey, a well-intentioned if inexperienced substitute teacher. The kids of Room 207 are more than ready to take advantage of him. Rounding out the cast is Miss Gomez, the school’s secretary, Detective McSmogg (a private investigator from the first Miss Nelson book, this time acting as a truant officer), and Mother Judkins, “special investigator” for the Board of Education.

Dummy for Miss Nelson Is Back

With all these characters, the strictest substitute teacher in the world, Viola Swamp (the true star of the Miss Nelson books), gets very little screen time; in fact, her appearance is gratuitous. There is none of the guessing and second-guessing of double identities that made the first Miss Nelson book so much fun.

Looking through the collection of dummies and storyboards, I saw that within two drafts Marshall had put Harry Allard’s story through its paces, trimming the number of characters to a splendid few, namely, Principal Blandsworth, Miss Nelson, Viola Swamp and, of course, the kids of Room 207. The greatest fun in the story—the kids impersonating Miss Nelson in a terribly obvious and obviously terrible disguise—had been fully fleshed out and the text had been trimmed to nearly what would appear in the final printed version.

Book dummy for Miss Nelson Is Back

The edits on these dummies are all executed in Marshall’s distinct handwriting. Entire sections have been cut, others invented on the fly, hastily scribbled in between and alongside blocks of discarded text. Editing happens not just of Allard’s work but also of Marshall’s own. Marshall writes several versions of the line “So this is your little game?”, trying “What is this?” and settling on “So thats your little game!” (In method it is very similar to a book done entirely by Marshall alone, The Cut Ups Carry On, which also exists in the archives and is splendidly detailed by Sandra Horning in her blog entry here.

Tracking changes through these drafts, it is very clear that what would appear as the final version of Miss Nelson Is Back was very much a Marshall story. For his part, Allard must have been okay with Marshall’s reworking of his script. Miss Nelson Is Back was their ninth book together, their second Miss Nelson book and they would go on to do another. I noticed also that Marshall sought to preserve some of Allard’s inventions through his drafts. Otis Delancey survived the transition from first draft to a storyboard before he was cut.

Last appearance of Mr. Otis Delancey, Storyboard, Miss Nelson Is Back

Miss Nelson Has a Field Day: The first pages of the dummy for Miss Nelson Has a Field Day* (Marshall and Allard’s third Miss Nelson book) is a combination of pencil illustrations with pasted down clippings from a typewritten manuscript. Whether or not the manuscript came directly, unedited, from Allard is unknown, but some clues indicate that it did. For one, the school in this story is named “Alice J. Gomez Elementary.”  According to Marshall’s partner William Gray, Allard could become fixated on certain details such as odd words or funny names—that he would bring Miss Gomez back to the Miss Nelson universe seems in keeping with this habit. And, as in Miss Nelson Is Back, Allard has attempted to enlarge the faculty, this time with Miss Witherspoon, the cheer squad coach.

Dummy and final print comparison, Miss Nelson Has a Field Day

Dummy and final print comparison, Miss Nelson Has a Field Day

Eight pages into this dummy Marshall begins composing the pages by typing directly onto his drawing paper. A few pages beyond that and Marshall begins writing in his distinct hand, using shorthand to get his ideas quickly onto the paper as they occur to him. As with Miss Nelson Is Back, Marshall appears to be inventing on the fly, using this stage of his process to both trim and flesh out the story and ultimately make it his own.

*footnote: Holding the original cover concept for Miss Nelson Has a Field Day up to the light revealed that the working titles to this story were at one point Miss Nelson Tackles Trouble and Miss Nelsons Secret Play.

Cover concept sketch, Miss Nelson Has a Field Day

Cover concept sketch closeup, flipped, Miss Nelson Has a Field Day

Miss Nelson Takes a Back Seat: The collection also held a three page typewritten manuscript by Allard for an unpublished story titled Miss Nelson Takes a Back Seat. Dated 1989, this story expands Horace B. Smedley Elementary’s world to include a school bus service, an appropriate enough story device, but there is little else in the way of character or plot. The entire story is mainly a vehicle for some gags about members of a circus sideshow.

“Better watch your ‘P’s’ and ‘Q’s’’ , kids,” the midget threatened, brandishing his bull whip.”
Typewritten draft by Harry Allard, Miss Nelson Takes a Back Seat

There are no marks by Marshall on this document, and no evidence I could find in the abundant collection of sketchbooks (used often for brainstorming and testing story ideas) that he ran with the idea. Whether this was because Marshall at this point in his career was focusing on retelling fairytales or because he felt the Miss Nelson adventures had been played out is unknown. Although not a trilogy in a strict storytelling sense, the three Miss Nelson books form a tidy whole. Miss Nelson Takes a Back Seat doesn’t add anything to the Miss Nelson world.

Miss Nelson Is Missing!: From the previous examples, it is obvious that the majority of  work that shaped the Miss Nelson books into what the public has come to know was executed by Marshall. This isn’t to say that Marshall didn’t value Allard’s contribution. Allard was a brainstorming partner, a writer who could turn out pages of script allowing Marshall to indulge in editing, evidenced many times in the collection as one of Marshall’s great strengths.

Cover concept sketch, Miss Nelson Is Missing!

Late in my research I discovered a single page near the back of one of James Marshall’s sketchbooks. This book, sitting nondescriptly in the middle of Box 20, held a cover concept sketch for Miss Nelson Is Missing! Dated July 27, 1976, the sketch would have been made about one year before the first Miss Nelson book was to be published. At the top of the page Marshall had written “Written by James Marshall and Harry Allard”.

He then drew a double headed arrow to transpose his and Allard’s name to give Allard top billing. Eventually the cover page would remove the “written by” and “illustrated by” lines and feature the two names as collaborators with Allard’s name featured generously at the top of the page.

But despite the vast source of materials related to the Marshall/Allard collaborations, it was a very small thing that most informed my understanding of their relationship. In the seventeen minute James Marshall In His Studio video (one in a series produced by Weston Woods/Scholastic to introduce authors to their audience) Marshall speaks directly to the camera, explaining his process in creating picture books. In talking about where his ideas come from, Marshall describes the infamous 3am phone call from Allard. I’ve alway read the line “Miss Nelson is missing!” as an exuberant, even manic, exclamation on Allard’s part. But as Marshall tells the story (at the nine and half minute mark if you should ever be so lucky to find a copy of this recording) it is far more nuanced. Marshall does an impression of Allard’s voice. It is theatrical, a little affected, mysterious. It’s done with a smile and, clearly, affection for his friend.

Marshall appreciated in Allard all those things I found peculiar. His eccentricities delighted Marshall. What’s more, Allard’s inspirations—whether they ultimately served to chart the inappropriate, or uncover the promising—informed Marshall’s talents. Given the amount of work Marshall put into their collaboration, that he would give his friend top billing is testimony to Marshall’s generosity. But it would be shortsighted to consider it charity. Marshall truly valued his partnership with Allard. Like Miss Nelson and Viola Swamp, in this story one could not have existed without the other. If Harry Allard were missing, so too would be missing these three books.

Still image from video, James Marshall In His Studio

Archivist Kristin Eshelman featured on Humanities LIVED

“You Should…Listen. Watch. See. Read. Go. Experience. Explore. Join.” asserts the clever new initiative You Should – Humanities LIVED sponsored by the UConn Humanities Institute.  The aims of the project are straightforward: to communicate the value that the humanities provide in our daily lives, to share our experiences, and to inspire others to do the same.

Should—the word has a hint of urgency, a bit of bossiness, and even a dash of guilt. Here, it is mostly a suggestion about something that inspired passion. Thus, you really should.

 

Every few weeks a member of the UConn faculty or staff offers a recommendation of a book, film, piece of music, podcast, or other inspiring work in the humanities that “should be consumed far and wide,” according to series editor Alexis L. Boylan, an Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Art History and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at UConn and Associate Director of the Humanities Institute.

You Should check out this recent post by our own Kristin Eshelman, Archivist for Multimedia Collections, to read about her explorations with artists, photographers, and fellow-travelers in the magazine Holiday….

 

 

On Charles Olson: poetics and / as pedagogy

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Dr. Michael Kindellan is a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Sheffield, UK. He has published research articles on several 19th and 20th century Anglo-American poets, and has recently completed a book on Ezra Pound’s late cantos (to be published in September by Bloomsbury). Made possible by a generous a Strochlitz Travel Grant, in January he travelled to the Archives and Special Collections at the Dodd Research Center to consult the Charles Olson Research Collection, along with other, related collections, such as the Ed Dorn, John Wieners, Michael Rumaker, Fielding Dawson and Ann Charters Papers. This trip marks the beginning of work on his new project, tentatively called “Present Knowledge: Charles Olson and the Poetics of Pedagogy”.

I have been meaning to begin this project since late 2011, when I was first awarded a Strochlitz Travel Grant. Sadly, I was forced to defer that in favour of a temporary lectureship position. One thing led to another, and two intervening post-docs later, I am thrilled to have been afforded the time and opportunity, both by Sheffield and by UConn, to properly get started.

Charles Olson [FIG. 1] was a poet and a pedagogue. He began his teaching career at Clark University in the mid-1930s. In 1938, he took up a Guggenheim Fellowship in support of research on Herman Melville, leading to the publication of Call Me Ishmael. During the 1940s Olson also worked in various positions for the US Government: as Associate Chief of the Foreign Languages Division for the Office of War Information and as Foreign Nationalities Division Director for the Democratic National Committee). In the late 1940s, partly on account of his poetic debut Y & X (in collaboration with the Italian artist Corrado Cagli) and partly after a strong recommendation from Edward Dahlberg, Josef Albers invited Olson to give a series of classes on writing at Black Mountain College,[1] where he eventually took up a permanent position before becoming its rector until its closure in 1957. [FIG. 2] These academic posts were followed by others in the 1960s, initially at SUNY Buffalo and then at the University of Connecticut. Olson’s reputation as poet/theorist was secured by his seminal 1950 essay “Projective Verse”; from that point on, he wrote poems until the day he died.

With that in mind, setting his poetics (the theory and practice of verse composition) in relation to his pedagogy (the theory and practice of teaching) seems an obvious thing to do. However, my project attempts something slightly more ambitious, namely to read Olson’s poetics and pedagogy as both complementary and also as coincident undertakings. Some of Olson’s comments in the minutes of BMC faculty meetings, where the subject of conversation is how best to go about teaching, often sound exactly like his ideas concerning good writing practice and procedure; similarly, his verse is frequently didactic in tone and instructional in form. Just how Olson’s prosody can be seen to issue the reader with “instructions” is the subject of an essay I published in Contemporary Olson (Manchester UP, 2015), a work that serves as a starting point the larger project at hand. Throughout, I mean to argue that Olson’s ideas and methods of writing are identical to his ideas and methods of teaching, and to explore the consequences of that.

As Eleanor Berry and Alan Golding have recently suggested, Olson sought to extend “his formal concerns into the epistemological realm in arguing that projective verse involves a ‘stance towards reality’ that he labels ‘objectism’”. Olson understood “objectism”, Berry and Golding rightly note, as the “getting rid of the lyrical interference of the individual as ego”, which they describe as “an ethically anti-humanist move to take poetry beyond mere self-expression into more culturally capacious realms of statement”.[2] As a poet as well as a teacher, Olson might well have wanted to strip away all traces of the “individual as ego”, but it is not necessarily how he went about the actual business of either teaching or writing poems. Indeed, a good deal of archival material demonstrates that, in actual and historical fact, Olson’s methods are highly egoistic, often radically so (where by “egotistic” I do not mean “excessively conceited”, but rather interested in the “self” as a foundation for both practice and comportment).

Consider, as a case in point, the exam questions he set for students taking his 1964 “Literature and Myth” course at SUNY Buffalo. Question 4 in particular, which begins “My own belief is that…”, demonstrates the extent to which Olson exerted strong control over the parameters of whatever horizons of understanding his students operated within. [FIG. 3] By all accounts, Olson was, as his long-time correspondent J. H. Prynne recently put it, “an influential and powerful teacher”; but he and his “Black Mountain team”, Prynne goes on to contend, “practised ascendency over the students and dominated their development, and offered themselves as exemplary models to be followed, not as choices to be made”.[1]  This assessment is consistent with reports given by Olson’s actual students who never quite fell under his spell, such as Francine du Plessix (later Gray); likewise, Olson’s often bad tempered and downright condescending notes to Cid Corman in Letters for Origin portray an authoritative teacher who suffered dissent badly.[2] Charles Boer also reported, speaking to Olson in the second person, “your classrooms were for your ideas. If a student thought otherwise, he was soon set straight on the matter”.[3]

The question for me is, how to square this authoritarian streak with Olson’s anarchic, deeply anti-technocratic approaches to teaching and writing.[6] In regards to both he admonished students and burgeoning writers to practice “istorin’”, an activity he attributed to Herodotus’s historiography and defined as “finding out for yourself”. The implications of this are far too numerous to encapsulate here, but foremost amongst them is Olson’s total refusal of conventional curricula: Olson was profoundly skeptical about lesson plans and learning outcomes, all of which promised to curtail in advance any line of inquiry that organically emerged from the pedagogical process itself.[7] Several former students of Olson’s recount how he would habitually stay after class to study the chalk board, as though trying to make sense of what had happened, what was said. In “FIELD COMPOSITION”, or “projective verse” practice, the poet “puts himself in the open—he can go by no track other than the one the poem under hand declares, for itself”.

The examinations Olson wrote for Clark University students reveal a key aspect of his pedagogical drive, namely the prioritisation of writing well over reading well. He was constantly interweaving questions of personal style, form and the like, into questions ostensibly about other texts. The idea here is that, for Olson, the most important texts were always one’s own. A headnote to a 22 January 1935 mid-year English II examination begins: “keep in mind that this is a course in writing. Clarity, accuracy, even beauty of expression is expected. No paper carelessly written will be considered satisfactory, in spite of content”.[8] [FIG. 4]

What exactly to make of all this I have yet to rightly determine, and giving a good answer will be the aim of my work over the next couple of years. But the plan is to conceptualise and then critique Olson’s pedagogy as poetics, and visa versa. What is clear, however, from the two weeks I was able to spend exploring and working in this extensive archive—a task made all the more challenging by Olson’s increasingly illegible handwriting and his tendency to write with dull pencils on acidic paper or the backs of dirty envelopes—have proven invaluable in terms of grounding a rather abstract idea in the hard facts of archival materials. For instance, the Charles Olson Research Collection holds large numbers of documents categorised as “prose”, which, upon inspection, are clearly notes for lectures or seminars given (mostly) at Black Mountain College. Though not a systematic thinker, not by a long shot, Olson, in many of these documents especially, is forever attempting to enumerate and order his thoughts on myth, on writing and on history. In others, such one that “begins” (if it can be said to begin anywhere) “You can’t use words as ideas”, Olson’s writing is (dis)organised spatially, composed quite literally “by field”, that is to say, in different intersected planes of the page space. [FIG. 5]

The archive also contains a great bulk of correspondence, written both by Olson, especially in his capacity as Rector of Black Mountain College, and by hundreds of correspondents, many of whom either taught with Olson (such as Robert Duncan and Robert Creeley) or were taught by him (such as Dorn, Dawson and Wieners). These letters have an obvious historical importance, given the established reputations of Olson’s peers. Of equal if rather different interest are letters Olson wrote to and received from lesser known interlocutors: officers at funding bodies, benefactors, university administrators, invitees to BMC’s summer “institutes” programme and parents of students. I expect many of these to feature significantly in my completed work. Naturally the manuscripts and other pre-publication material of the poetry—those pertaining to The Maximus Poems particularly—will feature throughout my work as well. The first drafts of Olson’s poems, written mostly in longhand and sometimes to spectacular effect [FIG. 6], demand readers reassess the value and importance of the typewriter to this work. But it’s the less glamorous reaches of the archive that have thrown up the most interesting preliminary findings.

 

 

– Michael Kindellan
Sheffield, March 2017

 

 

Figures:

  1. Fielding Dawson Drawing of Charles Olson (ink on paper), Fielding Dawson Papers. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Black Mountain Ephemera, Fielding Dawson Papers. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Series III, Box 268. Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Series III, Box 259. Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Series I, Box 26. Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Series I, Box 5, Folder 273. “I have been an ability—a machine”. Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

 

Notes:

[1] Josef Albers, 24 September 1948 Letter to Charles Olson, Series II Box 124, Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

[2] Eleanor Berry and Alan Golding, “Projective Verse”, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, 4th ed., ed. Roland Greene et al, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 1109.

[3] J. H. Prynne, “The Art of Poetry No. 101”, The Paris Review 218 (Fall 2016): 183.

[4] Charles Olson, Letters for Origin: 1950-1956, ed. Albert Glover (London: Cape Goliard, 1969).

[5] Charles Boer, Charles Olson in Connecticut (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1975), 54.

[6] As Martin Duberman reports, John Cage esteemed Olson’s Black Mountain College a truly anarchic community, in contradistinction to Josef Albers’s, where the “anarchic feeling… was only on the surface”. Martin Duberman, Black Mountain College: An Exploration in Community (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1972), 367.

[7] Cf. Olson’s statements on the matter in “Minutes of a Meeting of the Black Mountain College Faculty, 1951”, Olson: The Journal of the Charles Olson Archives 2 (Fall 1974): 16-24.

[8] Charles Olson, “Clark University English II Mid-Year Examination, Series III Box 258, Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

 

d’Archive: Archives on the Radio!

Stay in the loop and on top of the NOW!

Tune in to WHUS Radio 91.7 fm  – UConn’s Sound Alternative – tomorrow, August 31, from 10:00am to 11:00am for d’Archive, a new radio program hosted by Archivist Graham Stinnett.

Each Thursday this 50-minute series features interviews and audio recordings about, by, of archives, information workers, researchers, collections specialists and more. Each show contains interviews with guests interspersed with recorded playback of archival content or topical audio from other collections.

This podcast is available on itunes and available at the WHUS website.

 

 

 

Nobody and Somebody: The Loving Ways of Lone Oak – Reexamining the Life and Writing of Edwin Way Teale (Final post in the series)

by Richard Telford

Author’s Note: Though the product of many hours of research, writing, and revision, this chapter is nevertheless a draft; it will be subject to revision as the larger book in which it will appear takes shape. This chapter follows the book’s prologue and first chapter, both of which provide important context for my writing here. This is the sixth chapter to be published on this site. The first three, published this past winter, were later chapters of the book, chronicling the Teales’ loss of their son David during wartime service in 1945. Those chapters can be accessed here. As of now, I do not plan to pre-publish additional chapters. I welcome critical response to all of this work, either in the comment section of this site or through direct e-mail. I am grateful to the Archives and Special Collections staff for providing me the opportunity to share this work, and to the Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees for awarding me a sabbatical for the 2016-2017 school year. Contextual information about the project and manuscript can be found here.

 

Chapter 2: Nobody and Somebody: The Loving Ways of Lone Oak

 

It was a warm, or fairly hot day in spring—the grass was turning green, and the budding trees sent a pleasant odor thru the evning air. The patient lowing of the cattle in the lane, was distinctley heard above the scuffling on the roosts in the chicken coop; the grunting and squeeling from the pig-pen, and the blating of the hungry calves. The sparrows churped loudly from the Tamarack in frunt of the house and from across the road in the woods came the song of a whip-poor-will and numerous other songsters….These sights and sounds—usually interesting to any city boy, were especially so to me.[i]

 

Edwin Way Teale, Tails of Lone Oak, 1908

 

On both sides I am descended from a long line of those who were not the kind of folk whose names name-droppers drop. They were not the kind to provide ammunition for excessive boasting. They were, in the main, common people. But the world was not made worse because they lived in it.[ii]

 

Edwin Way Teale, autobiography draft, July 27, 1974

 

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog![iii]

 

Emily Dickinson, poem 288

 

The old man stood atop the open platform of the Furnessville train depot, the right side of his face lit by “station lamps gleaming on the snow,” the left by a kerosene lantern held high, as five-year-old Edwin stepped from the train with Clara and Oliver following at his heels. The Teales had arrived for a week-long Christmas visit to Lone Oak. It was the earliest such visit to remain forever etched in Edwin’s memory. The old man, “bundled in a fur coat until he resembled a great grizzly bear,”[iv] was Edwin Franklin Way, Clara Teale’s father and Edwin’s grandfather. Ed Way’s roots, like those of his bride, were eastern. His father, Hiram, a New York lumberman, had moved his family west during the pioneer days of the mid-nineteenth century, settling in Porter County, Indiana in 1855[v]—fourteen years prior to the start of the family peregrinations chronicled by Laura Ingalls Wilder. At the time, Ed Way, the second of five children, was twelve. When he turned eighteen at the outset of the American Civil War, he “enlisted as a private in the Fourth Indiana Artillery, attached to the Army of the Cumberland,”[vi] later fighting in several major battles. The first, the October 1862 Battle of Perryville, expelled the Confederate Army of General Braxton Bragg from Kentucky, forcing an overnight retreat through the Cumberland Gap into Tennessee. Three months later, the forces met again on New Year’s Eve day in the battle of Stones River, also called the Second Battle of Murfreesboro. Of the major battles of the American Civil War, the casualty percentage at Stones River was second only to that of Gettysburg.[vii] Ed Way was amongst the seriously wounded at Stones River and was discharged for disability and sent home to recuperate. In 1865 he reenlisted, this time with the ninth Illinois Cavalry, and served out the remainder of the war.[viii] Afterward, he used his Army pension to buy a homestead at the edge of the Indiana dunes.

A studio portrait of Edwin Way Teale, circa 1904.

Exiting the train platform on that bitter, Solstice-dark December night in 1904, the Teales packed themselves into the waiting bob-sled that would hurry them out to Lone Oak. Edwin later recalled how “the horses stamped and jingled their sleigh-bells and sent out clouds of silver steam into the cold night air.”[ix] At the clean, modest farmhouse, the young boy’s gaze was drawn first to the freshly-cut Christmas tree “trimmed with polished apples, strings of popcorn, paper decorations and marshmallow fish.” These fish, he recalled later, “had a flavor which haunted me for years afterwards.”[x] But his gaze and his admiration shifted quickly to the loving pair who would remain at the center of all of his later Lone Oak exploits, a pair “as remarkable as the dune country itself, as remarkable as the varied fields of the farm from which they had so long wrung a living.”[xi] That winter visit, and another during the summer that followed, preceded his matriculation at the Woodland School in Joliet.[xii] Thus, these visits comprised an early, critical education for Edwin, an education that contrasted sharply and restoratively with that of the twig-bending kind to which he had grown accustomed at home. It was palliative and healing, an antidote both for the trials of his earliest years and for the “new, strange world” of formal schooling still to come—a sphere whose governors often showed little patience for a mind “like a butterfly flitting about in a field of flowers.”[xiii] In a “world [that] was so full of interest,” he wrote in his unpublished autobiography, “I could not concentrate on any one thing.”[xiv] “It was not that I was dull witted,” he observed elsewhere. “It seemed more that my mind was too lively.”[xv] At Lone Oak, Edwin’s lively mind could flit unfettered. At Lone Oak, he could escape the disapprobation and shame that haunted his childhood. At Lone Oak, his grandparents set him free in nature, “a liberal mother who gave me room to expand, freedom to seek my own level, time to think my own thoughts.”[xvi]

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

Gramp Way, Edwin remarked in Dune Boy, “was probably not a very efficient farmer.” He paid little attention to “proper soils or [crop] rotation.”[xvii]  In farming and in life he eschewed routine; it “galled his spirit.”[xviii] For Edwin, this was an endearing quality: “Gramp was one of those unschooled men whose minds are not molded to conventional patters. He was himself, never anyone else.”[xix] Despite a lack of formal schooling, Gramp’s was a percipient mind that expressed itself in tenaciousness and ingenuity, in wit and compassion. He was, Edwin reflected, “a living refutation of that specious fallacy of the literate—the belief that illiteracy and ignorance are synonymous.”[xx] Though he had never read a book before marriage, he became, through his wife’s tutelage, an engaged reader by the time Edwin made his holiday pilgrimages to Lone Oak. In a journal he kept during the summer of 1911, Edwin noted, “…gramp’s deep in the mistarys of ‘The Silver Hord,’” Rex Beach’s popular 1909 novel of the Pacific fisheries. “I hear grampa exclaming from the corner couch,” Edwin continued, “so I suppose he has found an extra instering part….”[xxi] Edwin’s profound struggles with spelling as a child—at which he later poked fun both in Dune Boy and his unpublished autobiography—likely deepened his capacity in later reflection to fully discern Gramp’s vigorous if unschooled intellect. Despite his proclivity to “blithely ignore the dictates of Webster and the grammarians,”[xxii]  Ed Way sacrificed much to send his three daughters through college. He knew the pioneer landscape was giving way to a new, more educated world in which tenacity alone might not ensure one’s future.

In Edwin’s view, Gramp’s love of subtle humor was the greatest expression of his keen mind. This humor, most conspicuous in the stream of aphorisms the older man interjected into daily conversation, was a staple of Lone Oak life. Edwin recorded many of these aphorisms both in Dune Boy and in his autobiography notes. Waking from an after-dinner catnap, Gramp would proclaim, “Don’t know what you folks expect to do—but I know I’m about prepared to rear and tear and mount!” After this, he would “saunter off to bed.”[xxiii] Of his daily financial plight, he’d remark, “If the whole meetin’ house was for sale fer a cent I couldn’t buy a shingle today!”[xxiv] When guests arrived, he’d quip, “Sit down boys, just as cheap as standing up!”[xxv] Growing impatient over the slow preparation of a meal, he’d say “Today, tomorrow and the next day will be three days since I had anything to eat.”[xxvi] Or, “I don’t git hungry very often. But when I do ‘ts about now.”[xxvii] Once, when a new pair of shoes had given him blisters, he declared, “I must be like a Jay bird with my longest toe behind.”[xxviii] About a jacket Gram had sewn for him, he complained, “Say mother, ye put these pockets in my jacket so high I had to git up on a stump to pull out my handkercher.”[xxix] And he reveled in the story of a young female school teacher who boarded briefly at Lone Oak. As the three ate breakfast one morning, Gram said, “Sometimes I wish you’d cut your whiskers off!” Gramp held his tongue, but the young lady responded, “I think a kiss without a mustache is like an egg without salt!” Gramp retold the story often.[xxx] “The ax and the hoe and the pitchfork,” Edwin reflected later, “the years of toil which had bowed his shoulders and enlarged the knuckles of his hands, had never dulled his sense of humor nor his love of the joke.”[xxxi] For Ed Way, humor released the injurious steam of daily struggle. It reflected his desire “to ‘camp out’ at home,”[xxxii] to live contentedly in the present, imprisoned neither by past regrets nor dim future prospects.

Edwin Way Teale with his maternal grandparents Edwin F. and Jemima Way at Lone Oak, their Indiana farm, circa 1916-1918.

Gramp Way’s easygoing nature sometimes belied the fierceness of spirit that allowed him to eke a living from “an uncompromising tract” of land and to combat the steady stream of hucksters and thieves who plied the uneducated country folk at the edge of the dunes. Once, two men arrived at Lone Oak, a pair of “crooks [who] tried to get Civil War veterans to mortgage farms for $500 for [a] pair of glasses to keep Gramp from going ‘blind before morning.’” Gramp surreptitiously sent Edwin outside to let air out of the front tire of their car and to bring in cordwood. Gramp then “use[d] [a] stick on [the] crooks” and sent them hastily on their way.[xxxiii] Another time, a wandering tramp offered to chop stove kindling in exchange for a meal. Gramp assented and went back to his own work, realizing shortly afterward that the tramp had “shouldered the ax and set off at a trot down the road.” This prompted Gramp to set off “in hot pursuit.” When caught and confronted, the tramp dropped the ax and fled for the woods. Later, Gram expressed her dismay that the tramp might have killed Gramp, to which he replied, “What d’ y’ think I’d a bin doin’ about thet time?”[xxxiv]

Gramp’s earliest experiences on the Indiana frontier and his wartime service provided rich fodder for storytelling, an act bolstered by his “gift for the colorful phrase, the humorous twist, [and] the original observation.”[xxxv] On late summer evenings, sitting by “a smudge fire which kept the mosquitoes away,” Gramp wove elaborate tales “of the early days, the Indians, the wolves, the deer, the struggles of the pioneers.” At the start of the twentieth century, the dune edges had been converted to farmland “devoted to corn and oats, melons and potatoes,” but Gramp could remember the time when forests still blanketed the landscape. For Edwin, those stories “were like windows looking back into a glorious and adventurous past.”[xxxvi] Another such window lay in the southwest corner of Lone Oak, in a small “marshland ‘island’ where Gramp’s cows stood in the shade and flicked away the flies…during the hottest hours of the August noontide.”[xxxvii] Local lore told of this island as a former battleground of warring native tribes. From the “sand which lay beneath the sparse grass” of the island, young Edwin unearthed “a storehouse, a museum, of Indian implements…more than 100 arrowheads, spearheads and tomahawk-heads.” The plowing of the neighboring Gunders’ field yielded up similar treasures. It is no wonder that Edwin saw Lone Oak as “a sort of Never-Never-Land come true,” and no wonder that, in the confines of Joliet and under his mother’s critical eye, he would “cross off the days on the calendar and count the number remaining before the next vacation when I would return again to the green pastures of that Indiana farm.”[xxxviii]

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

In late August of 1852, three years before Hiram Way would move his family to the edge of the Indiana dunes, Jemima George was born in Ogdensburg, New York, spending “her early years near the banks of the St. Lawrence River.” Her father, “a prosperous masonry contractor” who was “engaged in building large churches in the region,” was able to send her to “a select seminary for young ladies” in Ogdensburg for 1865 and 1866.[xxxix] Henry George’s health failed in 1867, however, and with it his finances, so the family headed west in search of opportunity and healing, possibly encouraged by the prospects of “the prairie cure,” the widely-held belief in the power of “the clear dry air of the Midwest to allay” tuberculosis[xl] and other ailments. By the spring of 1867, they arrived in Morgan’s Sidetrack—later renamed Furnessville—and settled on a farm several miles from Lone Oak. “For the young girl,” Edwin noted, “this swift change…was like a plunge from daylight into darkness.”[xli] Jemima “floundered about” for several months, feeling “bewildered and uncertain, shy and misunderstood.”[xlii] Then she met Ed Way, who, “at the time, possessed nine white shirts”—a potent if amusing symbol of his post-war prosperity. For “state occasions,” he still donned the brass-buttoned blue Army overcoat he had brought home from the war.[xliii] He cut an impressive and benevolent figure, and Jemima, now 16, and Ed, now 25, were married on November 12, 1867.[xliv]

The main barn at Lone Oak, the site of many of Edwin Way Teale’s childhood exploits.

In post-Civil War pioneer society at the ede of the Indiana dunes, it was “the harder qualities of mind and character that [were] at a premium,” Edwin wrote later. “Men and women, struggling desperately to make ends meet, [were] like tightrope-walkers who [could not] forget for a moment the business of preserving their lives.”[xlv] Despite her initial shock and floundering, Jemima Way adapted quickly to the rigors of her newly-entered world, a process accelerated by her father’s death in 1869. Still, the physical and emotional rigors of frontier life cut deeply. On Christmas Day 1868, just over a year into marriage, she gave birth to a daughter, Alice. Alice lived only a few hours, and “as often was the custom in those early days—a grave was dug under an apple tree, about 2 rods from the house and a little home-made wooden box containing the infant was lowered into it.”[xlvi] Clara Teale later remembered how “For many years we younger children planted flowers and cut grass on that little spot of ground.”[xlvii] Ed and Jemima went on to have four more children: Clara Louise, in 1870; Allan Henry, in 1874; Winnifred Margaret, in 1880; and Blanche Elizabeth, in 1885. Tragedy came again for the Ways when Allan, who had been diagnosed with an enlarged heart, died shortly after the celebration of his twenty-first birthday. At the time, he was studying law with a Judge in Valparaiso; it was a halting end to a once-bright future.[xlviii] Such early deaths were common enough in a time when “it was the unusual thing for any farmer’s wife to have a doctor for childbirth”[xlix] and malaria was so rampant “that a little dish of quinine was placed on the table and every member of the family had to dip out a quantity and swallow it at breakfast-time.”[l] Still, the expectation of such loss did little to temper its sting.

Jemima Way spent her days “bending over her scrub-board or laboring at the churn,” often “wracked by chills and fever.” When farm help was scant, “she hoed in the blistering sun”[li] and took on nearly any other work that needed doing, often singing “old folksongs and ballads from England” to help pass the long hours.[lii] She rarely complained, but there were times during Edwin’s boyhood visits when Gramp would pull the boy aside and say, “Mother’s got alum on ‘er tongue this mornin’. Better steer clear o’ the’ kitchen.”[liii] Of these moments, Edwin wrote poignantly, “Fatigue is Life’s great poison.”[liv] Still, he noted further, “This hard labor which was her lot never broke her spirit.”[lv] A chance event that occurred when her children were young helped nurture and sustain that spirit; the effects of that event would ripple over decades, shaping the lives of a host of passers-through at Lone Oak, none more than the boy who “whirled like a satellite” around Ed and Jemima Way “from June to September in the golden days of summer and youth.”[lvi]

Lone Oak was located in the center of Pine Township, in Porter County. Sometime during the 1880s, “The Township trustees purchased a set of 140 of the world’s classic books of history and literature.” The books, “bound in leather and housed in a special bookcase,” were to serve as a public library.[lvii] Despite her constant toil at Lone Oak, Gram never forsook her educated roots. She had carried the intellectual flame kindled at Ogdensburg to the Indiana frontier, and there she had banked it beneath the ash of daily struggle, refusing to let it die. The Township library provided fuel for her inward fire, and the trustees’ selection of Jemima Way as its custodian, and Lone Oak as the site where it would be housed, yielded a cascade of effects they could never have anticipated. Throughout the decades that followed, Gram Way “read aloud every one of the millions of words” entrusted to her, over and over again, not just to her own family but to anyone who would listen. Long before young Edwin’s arrival at Lone Oak, “neighbors and hired men from near-by farms used to stroll over after the chores were done…stretching out on the front porch, puffing silently at their pipes” as Gram sat beside a kerosene lamp “inside the screen door…[and] read on and on, her expressive voice rising with the exciting passages.”[lviii] It was one of a host of Gram’s “nameless, unremembered acts/Of kindness and of love”[lix]—love for her family and for neighbors, and love for the power of the written word, a power that could both validate and transcend daily human struggle.

The north view of the farmhouse at Lone Oak. Edwin F. Way is seated in a rocking chair, reading in the breezeway.

Gram’s love of knowledge and the extraordinary value she placed upon the written word were not bound by her custodianship of the Pine Township library. “Possibly the greatest pleasure she had while living at Lone Oak,” Clara Teale recalled in the 1940s, “was her connection with the Grange…She wrote both prose and poetry for their programs.”[lx] She also wrote and published numerous articles for The Rural New Yorker, some of which were “reprinted in New York [City] papers.” Edwin recalled later how “she would write, by the light of an oil lamp,” despite her exhaustion of the day.[lxi] These articles, reflective of the time, were printed unsigned, rendering her a nameless voice from the country, at once somebody and nobody—a paradox driven home to her by events surrounding a particular article of which she was especially proud. After publication, she recopied its text, sent it to her only brother, and waited “anxiously for his reply.” When it came, he had written not with praise but doubt of her authorship: “Why did you tell me [that] you wrote that article? I read it some weeks ago in a New York City paper.”  The slight “hurt her deeply,” as “she had thought above all people—he would be the one who would see its worth,”[lxii] and likewise recognize hers.

While her brother could not see the deep well of her talents, Edwin could; and for her beloved grandson, Jemima Way dipped that well even more deeply. During one of his earliest summer visits to Lone Oak, Edwin recalled, “She put me to sleep each night with a new installment of a continued story about the River Pixies,” a complex, extempore creation sprung from her imagination. Accompanied by the “chorus of the katydids and crickets swelling outside the bedroom window,” Gram sat nightly on the edge of Edwin’s bed and conjured “faint, long-ago images of little people, with peaked caps, running about the banks of a dark stream.”[lxiii] Those images “remain with me still,” he wrote nearly four decades later.[lxiv] Amidst the life-preserving desperations of frontier life, he reflected, “A sensitiveness to the color and poetry of Nature” was “unessential, excess baggage.”[lxv] In that world, the majority, Thoreau’s “mass of men…so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life,”[lxvi] spent their lives “stifling the desire for luxury.”[lxvii] Jemima George Way was an exception, and thus was she exceptional in her grandson’s memory. “It is only the rare and superlative character,” Edwin wrote, “who is able to retain the softer qualities, beneath his armor, in a world of constant struggle. This Gram did and she stands out in my mind as one of the indomitable, great women of my meeting.”[lxviii]  Jemima Way not only retained such qualities but shared them freely: with family and neighbors, with farm hands and strangers, and with her beloved grandson, for whom her influence endured to his last days. She nourished Edwin’s acute sensitivities when it mattered most, when much of the world seemed bent on smothering them. She helped his emotional and intellectual waters find their level.

Reflecting on his childhood, Edwin understood fully how erratic the spotlight of memory could be, but he likewise understood how it was inevitably drawn to fixed points, to anchors, to holdfasts in the flood and ebb of life’s waters. Such were the memories of Gram and Gramp Way. Later, he came to associate these benevolent centers of his childhood orbits with three lines from Irish poet William Butler Yeats:

For life moves out of a red flare of dreams

Into a common light of common hours

Until old age brings the red flare again.[lxix]

 

Reflecting on these lines decades later, Edwin wrote, “Thus it was that my grandparents seemed to understand best of all, the world of dreams, of fantastic plans, of make-believe in which I spent so many hours.” “When we are young,” he continued, “we know least of all how different we are, or how different from the norm are those around us. It takes perspective to see ourselves in relation to the world at large. It was only after many years had passed that I understood how strange a boy I must have been or how unusual were the two who were my closest summer companions.”[lxx] Long after Gram and Gramp Way had returned to the earth they had spent their lives tending, Edwin took comfort in the fact that he had memorialized them through his writing. “Thinking of those golden duneland days,” he wrote in the spring of 1962, “I realize, with something of a start, that I am the only person in all the world who remembers them. Who remembers Lone Oak now? I alone. But in a way there are thousands more—all who have lived those days with Gramp and Gran in the pages of ‘Dune Boy.’”[lxxi] To the broader world, Ed and Jemima Way were nobody; to their friends and neighbors, they were somebody; to a strange, self-conscious, highly sensitive satellite of a boy, they were everybody.

 

Richard Telford has taught literature and composition at The Woodstock Academy since 1997. In 2011, he helped found the Edwin Way Teale Artists in Residence at Trail Wood program, which he now directs. He was a long-time contributing writer for The Ecotone Exchange. He was recently awarded a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant by the University of Connecticut to support his work on a book about naturalist, writer, and photographer Edwin Way Teale. The Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees likewise granted him a sabbatical for the 2016-2017 academic year to support this work.

 

References

Civil War Trust, The. “Ten Facts: Stones River.” https://www.civilwar.org/learn/articles/10-facts-stones-river. Accessed 24 7 2017.

Dickinson, Emily. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Ed. Thomas H. Johnson. Boston, London, New York: Little Brown and Company, 1960.

Goodspeed, Weston A., and Charles Blanchard, Eds. “Edwin F. Way.” Counties of Lake and Porter Indiana: Historical and Biographical.  Chicago: F.A. Battey and Co., 1882.

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Clara Barton, Professional Angel. Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987.

Teale, Clara Louise Way. Notes for Edwin Way Teale’s autobiography, Circa 1945-1950. Box 63, Folder 2170, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut  Libraries.

Teale, Clara Louise Way. Notes for Edwin Way Teale’s autobiography, Circa 1945-1950. Box 63, Folder 2188, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut  Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Days of Hearsay” chapter notes, drafts, 1974. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2167, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Days of Hearsay,” draft, 25-27 July, 1974. Most Complete Manuscript, undated. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2187, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist. Lone Oak Edition. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1943, 1957.

Teale, Edwin Way. Edwin Way Teale’s Composition Book [Circa 1910-1912]. Box 85, folder 2664, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Memories of a Bent Twig” chapter notes, drafts, 1974 July 31. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2169, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “My Earliest Home” chapter notes, drafts, 1974 July 31. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2168, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. Tails of Lone Oak. 1908-9. Unpublished manuscript. Box 84, Folder 2585, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. The Trail Wood Journal, 1962-65, unpublished journal. Box 120, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Woodland Days” chapter notes, research, drafts of manuscript, correspondence, 1974 August 19. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2170, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Woodland Days,” draft, 10-19 August, 1974. The Long Way Home, most complete manuscript. Box 63, folder 2187, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden: or Life in the Woods. Ed. Edwin Way Teale. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1946.

Wordsworth, William. “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798.” Wordsworth’s Complete Poetical Works. Cambridge Edition. Ed. Andrew J. George. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1904. 91-3.

Yeats, William Butler. The Land of Heart’s Desire. Chicago: Stone & Kimball, 1894.

 

Notes:

[i] Teale, Edwin Way. Tails of Lone Oak. 1908-9. Chapter 1. Box 84, Folder 2585.

[ii] Teale, Edwin Way. “Days of Hearsay,” draft, 25-27 July, 1974. The Long Way Home, most complete manuscript. Box 63, folder 2187. 5-6

[iii] Dickinson, Emily. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Ed. Thomas H. Johnson. Boston, London, New York: Little Brown and Company, 1960.

[iv] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 7

[v] Goodspeed, Weston A., and Charles Blanchard, Editors. “Edwin F. Way.” Counties of Lake and Porter Indiana:  Historical and Biographical. 398

[vi] Ibid. 398

[vii] Civil War Trust. Ten Facts: Stones River. Accessed 24 7 2017. https://www.civilwar.org/learn/articles/10-facts-stones-river

[viii] Goodspeed, Weston A., and Charles Blanchard, Editors. “Edwin F. Way.” Counties of Lake and Porter Indiana: Historical and Biographical. 398

[ix] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 7

[x] Ibid. 8

[xi] Ibid. 12

[xii] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “My Earliest Home.” Box 63, folder 2168.

[xiii] Teale, Edwin Way. “Woodland Days,” draft, 10-19 August, 1974. The Long Way Home, most complete manuscript. Box 63, folder 2187. 1,5

[xiv] Ibid. 5

[xv] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “Woodland Days.” Box 63, folder 2170.

[xvi] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “Memories of a Bent Twig.” Box 63, folder 2169.

[xvii] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 17

[xviii] Ibid. 17

[xix] Ibid. 16

[xx] Ibid. 16

[xxi] Teale, Edwin Way. Edwin Way Teale’s Composition Book [Circa 1910-1912]. Box 85, folder 2664

[xxii] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 16

[xxiii] Teale, Clara Louise Way. Notes for Edwin Way Teale’s Autobiography, Circa 1945-50. Box 63, folder 2170.

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] Ibid.

[xxvi] Ibid.

[xxvii] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 141

[xxviii] Teale, Clara Louise Way. Notes for Edwin Way Teale’s Autobiography, Circa 1945-50. Box 63, folder 2170.

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] Ibid.

[xxxi] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 14

[xxxii] Ibid. 17

[xxxiii] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “Woodland Days.” Box 63, folder 2170.

[xxxiv] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 20

[xxxv] Ibid. 14

[xxxvi] Ibid. 11

[xxxvii] Ibid. 29

[xxxviii] Ibid. 10

[xxxix] Ibid. 20

[xl] Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Clara Barton, Professional Angel. 67

[xli] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 21

[xlii] Ibid. 21

[xliii] Ibid. 21

[xliv] Teale, Clara Louise Way. Notes for Edwin Way Teale’s autobiography, Circa 1945-1950. Box 63, folder 2188.

[xlv] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 25

[xlvi] Teale, Clara Louise Way. Notes for Edwin Way Teale’s autobiography, Circa 1945-1950. Box 63, folder 2188.

[xlvii] Ibid.

[xlviii] Ibid.

[xlix] Ibid.

[l] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 21

[li] Ibid. 21

[lii] Teale, Edwin Way. “Days of Hearsay,” draft, 25-27 July, 1974. The Long Way Home, most complete manuscript. Box 63, folder 2187. 5

[liii] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 22

[liv] Ibid. 22

[lv] Ibid. 22

[lvi] Ibid. 26

[lvii] Ibid. 22

[lviii] Ibid. 22-3

[lix] Wordsworth, William. “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798.” 34-5 [See also Prologue, note 14]

[lx] Teale, Clara Louise Way. Notes for Edwin Way Teale’s autobiography, Circa 1945-1950. Box 63, folder 2188.

[lxi] Teale, Edwin Way. “Days of Hearsay,” draft, 25-27 July, 1974. The Long Way Home, most complete manuscript. Box 63, folder 2187. 5

[lxii] Teale, Clara Louise Way. Notes for Edwin Way Teale’s autobiography, Circa 1945-1950. Box 63, folder 2188.

[lxiii] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 25-6

[lxiv] Ibid. 26

[lxv] Ibid. 25

[lxvi] Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. Ed. Edwin Way Teale. 9, 7

[lxvii] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 25

[lxviii] Ibid. 25

[lxix] Yeats, William Butler. The Land of Heart’s Desire. Quoted in Dune Boy, Lone Oak Edition, 1957. 11

[lxx] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 11

[lxxi] Teale, Edwin Way. The Trail Wood Journal, 1962-65. 26 May, 1962.