Authors in the Archives with Lauren Russell and Megan Milks

AMANDA STRAUSS: Good evening, everybody Thank you so much for coming I want to extend a warm welcome to you to the John Hay Library My name is Amanda Strauss, and I’m the associate university librarian for Special Collections And I’m so incredibly pleased that we’re hosting this program tonight You may not know that the John Hay Library has some really rich and incredible collections on poetry And I am also really committed to artists using archival material to have encounters with history, to help us question the past, to help us reconfigure our understandings And we have two wonderful poets here tonight who are going to help us do just that This is also one of the first times we’re having an event like this in the Willis Reading Room And I love the reconfiguration of this space, the way that we’re going to bring some new art and community into it And I hope that this is just the first of many other events So thank you so much for coming tonight And I’m going to let my wonderful colleague, Erin Anthony, introduce the poets Erin has done some incredible work to put this evening together And so let’s give a big round of applause to Erin for all their hard work [APPLAUSE] ERIN ANTHONY: Thank you, Amanda Thank you, everyone, for being here My name is Erin Anthony I am a librarian at the Rock just across the street And I invited two writers here tonight because I wanted everyone to feel a little bit more connected to the archives and the special collections and learn a little bit more about creative works that can happen with some of the primary sources and some of the ephemera that you can find in archives The first writer I want to introduce is Megan Milks Megan is the recipient of the 2019 Lotos Foundation Prize in Fiction Writing Their first book, Kill Marguerite and Other Stories, won the 2015 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Fiction and was named a Lambda Literary Award Finalist They’ve also published four chapbooks, most recently, Kicking the Baby and The Feels, an exploration of fan fiction and affect Their critical writing, for which they won a 2014 Critical Hit Award from Electric Lit has been published in four columns, Los Angeles Book Review, and The New Inquiry, among other venues Their work as editor includes the &Now Awards 3, The Best Innovative Writing 2011 to 2013, and Asexualities, Feminist and Queer Perspectives Currently, they edit the fiction section of the account [APPLAUSE] MEGAN MILKS: OK Hi, everyone, how’s it going? All right, so I’m going to read from three different pieces that are all working with sources and materials in different ways– different kinds of sources, different kinds of materials, and different methods with each of them The first I’m going to read is from a project called Proxies that actually emerged in a workshop I took with Lauren Russell on documentary poetry in Madison a few years ago And this is a project that works with some of the court records and media reports related to the Slender Man stabbing that occurred in Waukesha, Wisconsin in 2014– well, actually, all three of us lived in Madison during that time OK Yeah, there’s a little bit more context within the piece itself, so I’ll just start reading it “Disclaimer– this is a work of fiction Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously This is a work of fiction Any resemblance to real events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental This is a work of fiction All characters and events portrayed in this book are either fictitious or used fictitiously This is a work of fiction All characters’ names have been changed to protect their privacy This work is fictitious It is the product of two girls’ lively imaginations Any resemblance to real events or persons, living or undead, is entirely perverted This is the work of 666 All penis and pissing portrayed in this book are either crapping or used vajayjay This is a horny pornographer Any resemblance to actual penis, prostitute, pooping, or drug dealers is entirely coincidental This is a work of penis Names, urine, places, and incidents are the syringe of the author’s imagination or are used deadly This is a work of knives When two 12-year-old girls took their friend out into the woods and stabbed her in what they claimed was a sacrifice to Slender Man, a fictional folk horror character that emerged on the internet, when that happened, I was an hour away in Madison working on a novel project that imagines an uncannily similar sequence of events

Unnerved by the similarities between my novel and this violent crime, I put aside the novel and turned my attention to the crime itself and the questions it poses about fiction 19 cuts Starting from Morgan is my best friend The next moving upwards was we both love cats and playing dress-up.” I feel like I need to give you more context So Morgan and Anissa were the two perpetrators, 12-year-old girls, who took their friend out into the field and stabbed her 19 times She did survive, and her name was Bella And this happened in 2014 And it became a big case in the state of Wisconsin for various reasons, but mostly because of the Court Justice system and how the girls would be tried OK, so, “19 cuts Starting from, Morgan is my best friend The next moving upwards was, we both love cats and playing dress-up The next was, also, I dress up like a cat all the time I draw whiskers on the back of my hands The next was, we would talk on the phone every night We were best friends The next was, also, we love each other We love Harry Potter The next was, we would imagine Voldemort chasing us through the lunch room and almost getting us Another, she’s my best friend since the fourth grade Moving to, then she made friends with Anissa Also, left and we weren’t the same The next was, they live in the same building The next was, they ride the school bus together The next one was on the internet all the time The next was, Anissa called me a bitch Moving to, when we sleep over Moving down now, Morgan sleeps next to Anissa Moving to, I’m stuck across the top Also, it was an accident I didn’t mean to kick Anissa in the face There was also, she kicked me back on purpose The last injury was a cut to the left thumb, measuring approximately 1 centimeter The girls, that’s what we call them The clerk types the case number into the search field She knows it by heart She tells me, use Court Record, not Docs, to move through the files It’s more information, notes and such, summaries of hearings, which records are sealed I start with Morgan Scroll to the bottom, the first entry Slowly work my way up The legalese is confounding, especially the theatrical, ‘now here comes’ that opens certain motions ‘Now here comes Morgan Geyser, the defendant, and does hereby motion this honorable court to,’ et cetera, and so on I think, how do I use this? I’m taking notes, a shorthand timeline of the legal proceedings, that will occupy 12 pages of my journal I get to the exhibits They’re what I want– the drawings, the scrawls, the deranged parts I order my copies, skim through the rest, then I turn to Anissa The clerk was right when she said I won’t find much difference between the two cases In the briefs and motions associated with her, Anissa’s name replaces Morgan’s I don’t know why I assume Morgan’s attorneys are leading the case and Anissa’s are following But I think I assume correct Anissa is the support Like me, ‘now here comes the writer documentarian and does hereby motion this honorable court to’– what? Hear me out I’m here I’m using this.” OK, I’ll stop there with that one And the next piece I’m going to read is from my chapbook called, The Feels, which is an exploration of fan fiction and affect And there are a couple of different forms that are included in the chapbook, but the predominant one is what I call feel extractions, where I take what I call the language of feeling from an original fan fiction source, extract it to create a spine– or a poem, sorry– with the spine of the word “feel” runs through each poem as the spine of the poem So it’s just snatches of language that include the word feel in various forms OK, and so this one is called, “I Don’t Want to Need You.” And it’s feel extractions from a Harry, Louis, One Direction fanfic of the same title, “I Don’t Want to Need You,” by To The Moon, My Dear is the original author OK, so a different archive– this is coming from an archive of our own Some of you are probably familiar OK “The feeling room feels lonely Relax when I feel, the pain that I feel, my legs because I feel, past the tears, but I feel I am the one who feels, feel the crushing I definitely feel like part of me is missing

I just feel like– I don’t know I feel bad for good I’m feeling good Feel like total crap This feels normal, feel like nothing His breath is hot on my T-shirt, and I can no longer feel Feel like I sucked at making him feel Make him feel better, feel needed He doesn’t feel the feel Make him feel good It helps him feel better He can’t feel, and I feel I instantly feel Almost instantly, I feel I hold him I feel Feel reassured, feel good, and then feel like I am going to vomit Why does it feel like all the feelings? I can feel his touchy-feely He made me feel the feeling Have you told him how you’re feeling? Feel like I can’t even talk Hard for him to feel how you feel Feel like I’m going to cry He can’t feel, can’t feel, can’t feel I can feel, feel my own dick It feels fucking feel I talked to him about my feelings, every shitty feeling, every negative feeling My smiles don’t feel Feel his vocal cords vibrate, makes me feel so– He can make me feel so I can’t feel anything But it is intense All at once, I feel Sweat between us should feel Turn me on I can feel I didn’t feel like I feel You maybe have feelings Say feeling, he feels I hate this, I feel Stop feeling I feel like I feel because feelings, our feelings, can feel I love the feeling I feel I always feel I feel all the time I have never felt better in my life.” Thank you so much [APPLAUSE] ERIN ANTHONY: Thank you so much, Megan That was lovely Next, I’m going to introduce Lauren Russell Lauren Russell is the author of What’s Hanging on the Hush and Descent, a winner of the 2019 Tarpaulin Sky Book Awards and a finalist for the National Poetry Series, forthcoming from Tarpaulin Sky Press in 2020 A 2017 NEA Creative Writing Fellow in Poetry, she has also received fellowships and residencies from Cave Canem, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, VIDA/The Home School, the Rose O’Neill Literary House, the Millay Colony, and City of Asylum/Passa Porta Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, boundary 2, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, and Bettering American Poetry 2015, among others She is Assistant Director of the Center for African-American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh [APPLAUSE] LAUREN RUSSELL: Thanks, Erin for organizing this and inviting me It’s a pleasure to read with Megan And thank you to the library for hosting So I’m going to read from Descent, which is forthcoming in April I acquired a copy of my great-great-grandfather’s diaries in 2013 He was a captain in Hood’s Texas Brigade in the Civil War And after the end of the war, he went back to east Texas and had children by three of his former slaves, who were also sisters And as I was transcribing this 225-page document, I became really fascinated by everything that was being left out and took several years researching and writing into that space Oh, you already started playing them Great So those are some of the documents I encountered And those are some erasures So it’s an erasure of that That’s the last one That’s where Peggy’s grave is Peggy was my great-great-grandmother I don’t usually read the intro, but I’m going to read the intro because of the theme of this reading It owes a debt to [INAUDIBLE] Book of John, the introduction to the Book of John, and a prompt Dawn Lundy Martin gave me in 2013 that formed some of the overarching questions “What happened between or out of or in the holes of this story is the real story, what cannot be filled in with sod or whisked away with dust, because history is neither the truth as it happened, nor necessarily the truth we most want to believe

When I look at the family tree, I see so many faceless names skewered on ascending boughs, making whole orchards of molding fruit, a hodgepodge of known or estimated dates, origins, migration patterns I can imagine these known and unknown ancestors in graveyards, reaching out across the oceans to West African villages where someone was kidnapped, venturing too far from the fold, or was captured in a raid, enslaved, sold, to the farms and teeming cities of Western Europe, where a heretic fled for religious freedom, or a younger son got dizzy on the rumor of fortune, or men and women left in ones or twos, or whole families trickling in on steerage to escape the farm, the shop, the Lord Most of their stories, I do not know But I see these faceless, often nameless, ancestors arriving at a harbor– Charleston, Baltimore, New York– free and ecstatic, or subdued by the prospect of endless work, the unknown land, or staggering onto a deck with shackles, boring bloody welts into their skin, stunned by the sudden light, their languages ricocheting off each other, and when forced to bend to the master tongue, still maintaining some of their posture In the centuries that follow, occasionally, someone leaves a diary full of holes, and you glimpse a personality, a record shaped, curated for posterity History belongs to the victor, perhaps to the one with the loudest pen So forced illiteracy has historical ends Mythology grows in the distance between record and memory over several generations so that a farm becomes a great sawmill and a slave woman embarks on an unlikely 1,000-mile journey, declining a chance at liberty to visit her master, a Confederate prisoner of war, who promises a great reward What I know is this– sometime between [INAUDIBLE] 1746, Benjamin Hubert, a French Huguenot, arrived in the New World with his desperation and his faith But the path from persecuted to persecutor is as narrow as the slave trader’s whip In his will, recorded in Georgia in 1793, Hubert left his youngest son 100 acres, including a plantation and one negro boy named Rob By 1798, Benjamin Hubert’s older son, Matthew, owned six slaves Half a century later, Matthew’s son, William, was still in Georgia, the owner of a plantation and the 56 human beings whose labor supported it William Hubbard’s daughter, Martha, had married JAS Turner, a wealthy Georgian whose family’s plantation [INAUDIBLE] and its slave inhabitants were the source of the Uncle Remus stories Turner had taken a fancy to Texas as a captain in the Mexican War, riding hard on the heels of manifest destiny His own destiny manifested in the form of an exodus When the Republic of Texas won independence from Mexico in 1836, it used land as currency to pay soldiers and encouraged settlement And after it was annexed to the United States in 1845, Texas continue to dole out land at about $0.50 an acre By the mid-19th century, white settlers were invading the state like an Old Testament plague But the native inhabitants they drove away weren’t headed for any land of Canaan For decades, the Alabama and Coushatta had been living in the big thicket of East Texas And in 1883, the Alabama petitioned the Texas legislature for land as their position became increasingly precarious The following year, the State of Texas settled the tribe onto a 1,000-acre reservation that became more crowded once the Coushatta arrived in 1859 That year, the inhabitants of every other Texas reservation were banished to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma, opening the way for white settlement By then, the Turners had already headed west And out of family feeling, or an itch for land acquisition, the Hubbards had decided to come along

Among the many human possessions they brought to Texas was the slave, Dinah Alford, a mother of 20 Three of Dinah’s daughters, Margaret, called Peggy, Louisa, and Priscilla would have children by one of the Hubbard sons, Robert, called Bob, after his return from the Civil War One of those children was my great-grandmother I am not writing a history of what happened, which I cannot know I am writing into the silences, the omissions, what has been left out, either intentionally or because, by its nature, it defies legibility I am writing into this space where one story [? strails ?] off and another begins, oddly muddled, or between what some might have thought of and what they dared to utter, or beyond what nobody was sure of, but everybody recollected, or within what only I imagined, bent over a photocopy of a photocopy of my great-great-grandfather’s diary and a stack of books and records, trying to fill in the letters between H and P This is not a history or a fiction I would like to invoke Audre Lorde’s term, biomythography, and puncture its seams, pull out its hem, and make biomythology from the swaying threads Thus, there may be several versions of the same events None may be true, but all could have been, climbing a web of omission, legacy, myth Dear Robert, dear red beard, dear specter of the great white father, dear slave holder, dear Confederate captain captured at Gettysburg, dear dispenser of land, favors, semen, procreator of 20 children by three sisters simultaneously, dear father of the Negro League pitcher, dear farmer, school master, landlord, hired hand, grave paler, log roller, surveyor, and manure shoveler, dear singer, dear churchman and circus fan, dear reveler at brigade reunions, dear collector of sentimental poems about loneliness and redemption, dear pointy-eared, like a Lucifer, and bearded beyond Rasputin, dear mythical Jim Crow defier, hero of my grandfather’s childhood, who took him on the whites-only section of the streetcar– he claimed this really happened, proclaiming, ‘These are my grandchildren, and they’re sitting with me’– dear diarist, dear widower, dear lonesome hunger, dear admirer of well-formed women, dear inscrutable in the [INAUDIBLE] besides your favorite half-claimed child, dear tallier of payments, debts, work days, weather conditions, neighbors by name and race, dear borer of wells, dear master of omission Were you a tear in her life, the kind that starts with a moth hole and rips to the seam overnight? She was 16 and newly freed, your cook and once your slave Was she peeling potatoes, shelling peas, bent over an open flame in some back house kitchen when you came from behind and prick, your beard like brush fire at her neck, how, in battle, exploding shells set the wilderness and shrieking wounded alight? Heard a whippoorwill holler this morning for the first time this spring Heard a whippoorwill holler, all hands choking cotton Heard a holler, a whimper Heard a [? Will ?] whip her Will heard a whip, whip or a will Will heard, herding hers, whipping herds, sowing oats, whipping whores, stripping cane ore, whelped her, willed her a well and a hold, dank of the dark of the hell of the hold, choking cotton, caught in a yolk and a pole, stripped and caned for Heard her holler, caught her, held her hand to the– whipped out your, held her head to the– whipped out the billfold Heard a whimper this spring, choke door Heard a holler, a hollowed-out hold whipped to a wheelbarrow, hell-bent toward a hole, ripped from a– wrapped in a gut-wrench sugar hold Question– so how did the women feel about this?

Answer– don’t guess they had no say.” This next one starts with an epigraph “I have, many a time, been actually and painfully thirsty, and yet inside of an ocean of fresh water Decimus et Ultimus Barziza escaped POW Johnson’s Island, winter 1863 through ’64– that winter, the pipes froze and no longer brought water in from the bay The guards ordered the men to dig two holes about eight feet deep They installed pumps, but still, the water is always exhausted within one hour of “Reveille.” He has forgotten to change his socks, and his toes are freezing in their own sweat The wind claws at his eyelids and lips The ice is driving at him in spikes, fearsome And for a second, he thinks the wind is hammering nails into his face, that God Almighty is bent on paling his grave But, no, he is grateful for the warmth of the beard, ought to wrap it around him like a scarf It is almost long enough His thirst, gravel in his throat His ears, tingling and then, suddenly, numb Heard a whippoorwill holler Heard a holler, a whimper, a whirlpool, a snicker Heard a stag kick her Long hours between roll call and roll call, he tries to rewrite his own history to erase the moment his ears popped, charging a Pennsylvania hill Whip ’em, boys, whipped or not whipped yet, how you begin to doubt your own head A shell exploding ahead, and even the screams of the man beside, you are muted like cries from the shore when you were holding your breath underwater The lines, a scattered mess of boulders, but you’re yelling, stand firm, why? The rebel yell issuing from your own spent breath, though you cannot hear, but, for a moment, think you will make it to the top, despite gunfire hailing down The forest, a dizzying maze of smoke, and half-blinded, retching, you run headlong into a tree before you are taken How, sword in the back, see yourself relinquishing your revolver to a first lieutenant from New York– some retribution for Second Manassas, the blue columns at Fredericksburg melting away, Look away Look away The boy who disarmed him was younger than he, had curious auburn eyes that reminded Bob of some dogs he’d seen.” As I said, my great-great-grandmother’s name was Peggy “Peggy rises out of sleep, through the dream called blue, where all her kin-folks are wading through fields of blue– even her father, left in Georgia, her stillborn brother somehow grown, her niece, who stumbled into the fire on Christmas day and died with the vision of her white dress aflame, the aunt or uncle who ran off or was lost forever to the auction block They are all wearing blue– blue hats, blue shawls And in the way they sing a song with no words, there is also blue And bluely, she creeps toward them in her calico blue And now there is a dance They are partnering for the quadrille And the man they called Bo Peep cradles a banjo, strikes a tune, blue And her petticoat, starched with hominy water and Priss’s too And every time they stop moving for a second, the petticoats pop and Priss giggles And in Priss’s eyes are flecks of blue The log train shakes her into waking, black then dark blue And she reaches for her kerchief, blue And she is stumbling toward the cradle, blue, and cooing– shoo, shoo– to the baby who is hollering now One Sunday, the preacher prayed, ‘Lord, let us all go to heaven where there will be no log train.’ Hoo-hoo-hoo and a clinkity-clink, hoo’s, black smoke curling into the half-blue Bob, can I be your lazy eye, your wanderlust, your grave without a headstone, your bleeding gums, your buck teeth, and your walk, bow-legged at the knee? Can I be your fortune hunter, your glimpse of wild geese, your red russet shoes that poison the feet? Reckon this is the best of my seed Been stripping cane and, blind, robbing the bees Reckon you’ve thought of swimming the creek Last night, they came on horseback, white hoods like phantoms, scanning the trees,

burning torches, shattering sleep I dragged the shotgun from the door and stepped, squinting, onto the porch.” One of his 20 children was the Negro League Pitcher, Jesse Hubbard And all of the language in this is taken from an interview that was later published with Jesse Hubbard “Jesse ‘Mountain’ Hubbard– man, I beat those guys so bad it was pitiful The team that wanted me was the Tigers They didn’t sign me because Ty Cobb was there, and he didn’t like colored no kind of way The team that wanted me bad was the Tigers If Cobb saw us coming, he sat out the game He didn’t like colored no kind of way He’d grip the ball tight and bug his eyes If Cobb saw us coming, he sat out the game They used to accuse me of cheating, of cutting the ball He’d grip the ball tight and bug his eyes Well, I had something I could cut it with They used to accuse me of cheating, of cutting the ball If they threw drop balls in front of the play, I’d kill them Well, I had something I could cut it with All I did was pull up my pants, like this If they threw drop balls in front of the plate, I’d kill them Now, that’s part of the history of the Negro race All I did was pull up my pants, like this When I got warmed up real good, I cut loose on them Now, that’s part of the history of the Negro race They didn’t sign me because Ty Cobb was there When I got warmed up real good, I cut loose on them Man, I beat those guys so bad it was pitiful I want to think that when the witness tree leaned into the ledge, it heard her heart stop between one breath and the next The day they buried Peggy, all the trees were whispering, the chinkapens and loblolly pines Did she miscarry, bleed to death while Bob or Plunk saddled the horse, rode miles panting after the doctor in town? Did she recall her mother’s 20 pregnancies and bite her lips– her tongue, the quilt, and, finally, the bedpost, lest her daughters hear her scream and come too close? Did she rage deliriously through the shakes, bloat from dropsy or hack, through a consumptive fit? Or did she take her own life, swallow strychnin or arsenic, hang herself from a beam, clench a shotgun between her teeth? Peggy sometimes spoke in whispers Sometimes she did not speak at all, but just said, uh-huh, leaning hard on the last syllable, or, sure did, with all her weight on the first Sometimes, if Bob looked closely, he would see a thought blow across her face Once, he might have tried to squeeze it out, but a woman is not sugar cane you can run through a mill, its secrets easily expelled.” Peggy “Today I plucked a whippoorwill from down the bottom of the well Her neck was broke, but still she hollered out her name Get, the burst of freedom came in June Go yonder way, I said Once, when she was 16, Peggy finished cooking the hominy and drew pictures with ashes left on the hearth.” What do I have left? Just a few more All right, so one of the stranger things I discovered– in 1999, the Sons of Confederate Veterans decided to rebury Captain Robert Wallace Hubbard, except there wasn’t much left So it’s just, like, dig up some bone shards and move it, without asking permission from any of his direct descendants “Ceremonium [? mordium, ?] the reburial of Captain Robert Wallace Hubbard and his wife, Jenny, in loving memory by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, April 25, 1999 Early Baptist funeral service, one– introduction and background Bob Hubbard placed his family cemetery on the old survey, straddling the county line, where he planned to lie forever with his black mistress at his feet and his white wife by his

side Two– death and burial A backhoe unearthed buttons in the overgrowth, a few shards of bone Who scooped them up? A backhoe bucking a black hole, who segregated the family plot? Three– resurrection Heard a whippoorwill holler, a whimper, a whistle, whipped out of the woods, a dart through the center Four– [INAUDIBLE] the day, for the Captain Robert Wallace Hubbard Scholarship Fund God the Father, bless these gifts and have mercy on your servant, Bob, who sent his daughters to school, Wiley College, Prairie View Said he didn’t want them working in no white man’s kitchen, because he knew that he may share with you, through your son, our Lord, who was once human, too Amen Five– the dismissal Passed by the caskets for the last respects, passed on, passed through, passed into, passed beyond, passing, present participle, crossing over to never come back High military service for the dead, one– receiving the deceased No one will say what happened to the marker on Peggy’s grave, the cement cover Bob or their children laid Two– the procession Even in death, rebels can fall perfectly into step There is Major Jimmy Littlefield, the quartermaster, and barefoot John Stevens following the bagpipers And Bob’s nephew, Ike, recently reburied, still 24, still dashing and dying in his uniform, winks at Bob and says, it’s only matter Three– blessing the canon named for Captain Hubbard Bless this cannon with its rebel name Expect an expansive range It shoots straight, but don’t forget to aim Four– the graveside services Into the ground, we commend these buttons Button up what can’t be shucked What goes down must come up Five– the internment, dismissal of the artillery men The Houston Highlander Bagpipe Band, ‘Amazing Grace.’ Hubbard family reunion and picnic on the grounds, excluding direct descendants, some colors out of bounds When the Genographic Project says I am more Scandinavian than African, I don’t know how to feel about it If I went to Denmark in this skin, this smoking cyclone a crown of frizz, and declared the findings, who would they convince? I’m told I am more Scandinavian than African and wonder where this belongs in the half-built book I am no longer living in Bob Hubbard was always gathering moss for the mudcat chimneys he raised over Polk County A county surveyor knew where lines bent Did he leave behind a genetic map? Bob came through and made everyone kin, one of my cousins laughs.” From Emma Hanes, history of Polk County, 1937 “When the camp was established at Moscow, every house was closed and Negroes paraded up and down the streets The next morning, four Negroes were found hanging to a tree The Ku Klux Klan would control the Negroes, and did to a great extent But the citizens were kept in constant fear of a Negro uprising Oh, that people loved peace rather than war In the book I have built, where I no longer live, some nights, hummings in the walls– not wind hissing through chinks, but a human song that shifts in sleep and dips into a low diphthong.” Peggy “That moon ain’t hiding, clouds a shawl, moons cold as a brass tacked upside a knight’s frock Pin your tears to her They’ll sing like chimes or ghosts that cry (SINGING) Sometimes I feel like I’m almost gone Ghosts charred in dead men’s lust

Think I’m some fool, got brains of shucks? Since freedom, I’ve been through the tufts See, one moon casts your shadow twice, once toward the bottom land, once toward the pines The wind’s right smart, but moon, she’s sly Look, lightning bugs, they spark, but they cannot catch fire.” Thank you [APPLAUSE] ERIN ANTHONY: Thank you so much, Lauren So I wanted to take a few minutes to do a Q&A if people have questions Do you two want to come up for a Q&A? I think we have mics somewhere Or people can come up to the podium But it’s– yeah, it’s not a huge room So if anyone has a question– AUDIENCE: OK, [INAUDIBLE] earlier, on the screen, there was a picture of some [INAUDIBLE] that [? had been ?] erased [INAUDIBLE]? LAUREN RUSSELL: There were a couple things that were erased, that I erased AUDIENCE: Oh, you erased LAUREN RUSSELL: I did erasures, [INAUDIBLE] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] LAUREN RUSSELL: It was me AUDIENCE: OK [LAUGHTER] I’m always overwhelmed by research, as a writer, so I’m curious if you could both say a few things about just how you learned to do research LAUREN RUSSELL: Do you want to start? MEGAN MILKS: Sure I mean, I love research It’s a way to delay the writing [LAUGHTER] But it also gives you so much more to work with And it’s a way to just confront the things you don’t know, right? But are you asking more about methods, strategies? AUDIENCE: Just [INAUDIBLE] I’m just curious [INAUDIBLE] obviously, there’s so much [? rich ?] and different research in both of your works, so I just am curious how– about, maybe, the first time you started the endeavor of doing a project that was [INAUDIBLE] research, or any research? MEGAN MILKS: Well, I definitely learned a lot from Lauren speaking It was just a four-week or five-week workshop on documentary poetry And that was just really inspiring in terms of the kind of models that Lauren brought to us And they– source materials that were integrated into those models But prior to that, I mean, I have done research into– or, sorry, I went to the Chicago Public Library to see their Seventeen magazine collection from the 1990s so that– a piece that I was working on related to the [INAUDIBLE] column, could add fidelity to the original, those sorts of things I mean, there’s so much available I’ll just let you– LAUREN RUSSELL: I was really overwhelmed by it, initially, when I first started doing this project And I would [? burn ?] one thing and then forget it as I started writing something else Very early, I was doing a fellowship at the University of Wisconsin Madison And very early in the fellowship, we all had to do some presentation or something of our work And [INAUDIBLE],, who’s the director, saw it And maybe I said I don’t know how to organize my research And he said, take three notebooks– one narrative facts, one for diction, and one for images And I carry around these three notebooks and write from all of them And that helps so much That helps so much, yeah ERIN ANTHONY: Any other questions? AUDIENCE: I was just wondering what special collections or repositories could do to help facilitate this type of research? I think my sense is that some of the research that poets and artists do differs a little bit than, maybe, research that historians [INAUDIBLE] more traditional work might do So I wonder if there is policies or technology or other things that would make the archives more open to this kind of work? You could always email me later [LAUGHTER] MEGAN MILKS: Gosh, I feel like I don’t know enough about what is already available to even think about what more could be

That’s some really exciting speculative thinking to engage in LAUREN RUSSELL: Yeah, it’s hard to know I feel like I did a lot of mine digitally So the fact that a lot of archives are available digitally is super helpful, especially, I don’t know how to drive Everyone can’t go everywhere all the time And I also got a lot– I would call them and ask for things to be scanned People tended– the extent to which people were really helpful, things like doing things remotely The one archive– oh, this is being recorded? [LAUGHTER] Well, [? I don’t ?] [? think it ?] was a lab So I went to the National Archives in Washington DC And apparently, they don’t usually let people see Confederate service records But they let me see them And that was one of the– that was amazing, because just being able to actually physically see the actual document But you can see it online, but it’s not the same as people actually hold the documents in the main reading room And there were other things I wanted that was not allowed to actually see that whole thing So I guess that’s the thing, where I feel like there’s something about the materiality of the object And I understand why preservationists want to protect them But just being able to have experience with the actual object [? is something. ?] AUDIENCE: Follow-up question on materiality– so pandering these primary sources, these, in many cases, maybe handwritten sources, do you find that [? you’ve ?] [? been ?] thinking about the writing process differently, maybe inspired by the traces of someone else’s writing and thinking very consciously about your active writing? Do you see a parallel there, or maybe a [INAUDIBLE]?? LAUREN RUSSELL: You’re nodding AUDIENCE: Leaving– [LAUGHTER] LAUREN RUSSELL: [INAUDIBLE] answer [LAUGHTER] MEGAN MILKS: Well, I think just, I guess, having imposed stages on the writing process is helpful, like taking notes in the archives, whether it’s– I usually do long-hand notes, even though a lot of people suggest to just do it digitally so you don’t have to do it digitally later But I like that kind of stage, where I have my notes, and then I transfer them to the computer And I’ve thought about it since then And there’s a kind of delay that is really useful for me But it does also make me think a lot about my own traces and preserving my own drafting process and correspondence, and things like that I mean, [INAUDIBLE] and Kevin’s archives have so much correspondence It’s really astonishing And of course, now, we just send emails So it’s like [INAUDIBLE] thing But I’m definitely more aware of my own materials, I guess LAUREN RUSSELL: I was at this conference [INAUDIBLE] It was black portraitures And the theme was something having to do with archives Don’t remember the exact name is, something about archives And then the last [INAUDIBLE] I went to was an archivist who said, I have been to the future, and someone is looking for you What are you going to do? He was trying to get everyone to think about their own archives I guess what I have done, as far as materiality, is, does include working with erasures, but not just doing erasures, but doing erasures in chalk, or in a material that was available at the time That’s one way I’ve thought about it I have also– I started collaborating with a visual artist to try to make– create an installation, which does not yet exist But we are working on it It may exist in the not-so-distant future That was partly a way of thinking about time, because as I was experiencing this, time is not linear, and I wanted a way for the reader to engage with it in a way where you’re not trying to get from the 19th century to the present, but you sometimes would wander around in time And actually putting it in a physical space was a way to think through that or to experience that So [INAUDIBLE] the way she thinks about it is really interesting, because she reads the manuscript and comes up with all– writes up all the images, all the sounds, all the material So she’s going to have whippoorwills playing in the background and blue for Peggy, and baseball innards making things, and cotton

But so the way she thinks about it is different in terms of the actual physical materiality of the thing I don’t know if that answered your question at all ERIN ANTHONY: Anyone else? I think that’s most of it, then All right MEGAN MILKS: OK, thanks LAUREN RUSSELL: Thank you ERIN ANTHONY: Thank you so much [APPLAUSE] Thank you again for coming out I really want to say thanks to Amanda Strauss, Jenn Braga, Heather Cole, Nora Dimmick, who’s here, Ben Tyler, who did a lot of the promotional material And thank you again to Megan and Lauren for being here You traveled a long way Lauren was stuck in an airport for a really long time So I just really appreciate it This was a fantastic event And both of you read beautiful works And, yeah, I’m so honored that you came So thank you Thank you all [APPLAUSE]