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“I desire only ink for wine, only stanzas for bread.”
Foolscap. Parchment. Vellum. Stylus. Quill. Typewriter. Ink. Graphite. Ribbon.
These are the tools of language, tools used by humans to share thoughts, sentiments, and ideas for centuries. They are the tools of those who write: poets, novelists, essayists, journalists, diarists. And historians. The writings –whether illuminated scrolls, epistles sending news along postal roads, diaries recording the details of an ordinary life, or logs of seaworthy vessels– become history; they emerge as documents that allow us to uncover or understand people, as the past, and the perspective of others, is often a land far beyond our own.
The writing implements themselves become material culture, historical artifacts; the rich evidence of someone else’s hand upon the page: ink long dried, letter long sent, manuscript long-ago typed, tucked under attic eaves, ignored. A typewriter key. A broken fountain pen. A wax seal under glass in a museum. All represent our need to communicate, to express, to press a soft fingerprint upon the possibility of immortality. This is especially important for women, whose lives and voices have often been relegated to the inconsequential by historians or editors. Women have been encouraged in the past to be still, remain silent, to have their letters and diaries burned upon their deaths. To exist only in the washed dish, and not the click of inspiration on typewriting keys–unless taking dictation from a boss. I seek to reclaim these vintage images, to imagine a creative inclusiveness, to root out the truth of their lives.
I am a poet. I am a historian. And I am also a feminist. My work as a writer and as a museum professional allows me to offer connections between the scholarly historical record and contemporary audiences, in particular the unique lives and perspectives of women throughout history. The settled. The strong. The strange. I do this by maintaining and sharing the artifacts and stories that are necessary and vital to our identity, and by presenting them in ways that are thought-provoking, engaging, and accessible, whether that medium is a poetry collection, a scholarly talk, a workshop, an article, a sermon, or a series of innovative museum programs.
If my work inspires or encourages others to visit museums, interview grandmothers, care for a family heirloom, write a poem, or start a journal, so much the better. We must write ourselves into the history of the future. Use your tools. Stain the page. Spill ink.