In 1995, the Society welcomed its first class of a new kind of fellow. They were the Creative and Performing Artist and Writers Fellows, and they included fiction writers, poets, playwrights, visual artists, sculptors, performance artists, and musicians, as well as non-fiction writers, documentary filmmakers, journalists anyone seeking to create original works based upon American history and present them to non-academic audiences and readers. Initially, this program was funded by the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund and is now supported by endowments created by Robert and Charlotte Baron, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, and Deborah and Jay Last.
These fellows added immensely to the intellectual mix under the generous dome of Antiquarian Hall and benefited from and contributed to the lively conversations with AAS staff, academic fellows and the lay scholar alike over the past quarter century. Many have also created and produced powerful, imaginative, and beautiful works which we shall celebrate in the coming months in a program we are calling Artists in the Archive: Twenty-five years of Artist Fellows at the American Antiquarian Society.
We start our series in honor of National Poetry Month with the work of three fellows. In these videos, we meet the artist, hear about the inspiration and methods of their work and then hear them read one or two of their poems created under their fellowship.
“Snow Globe (April, 18, 1775) Revere Speaks” by Catherine Sasanov
Written from the perspective of Paul Revere, trapped forever on his Midnight Ride, the poem meditates in part on an incident with an enslaved child mentioned in the Society’s Hugh Hall Papers, 1718-1743. Sasanov juxtaposes Revere’s story with that of the hanged man Revere will forever be riding by: Mark, who after murdering his enslaver in 1755, is executed, gibbeted, and hung by the side of the Cambridge Road.
Catherine Sasanov was a 2016 Robert and Charlotte Baron Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society. She is the author of Traditions of Bread and Violence (Four Way Books, 1996), All the Blood Tethers (Northeasten UP, 2002),and Had Slaves (Firewheel Editions, 2010).
“And so you walk, Sassamon” and “John & John, At the Gathering of the Praying Indian Congregation at Natick, Confessions to be Heard, 1654” by Robert Strong
Robert Strong, poet and founding column editor of “Poetic Research” at Common-place.org, reads two poems from Bright Advent, the book resulting from his 2009 William Randolph Hearst Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society.
Bright Advent engages the 17th century translation and publication of the Bible into Algonquian in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the missionary work of the puritan “Apostle to the Indians” the Reverend John Eliot, and the linguistic brilliance of the native translator and Harvard student John Sassamon—the events, characters, and forces that led to King Phillips War in 1675. Bright Advent was awarded the Marie Alexander Poetry Series prize and published by White Pine Press in 2017. Previous books include Puritan Spectacle, Joyful Noise: An Anthology, the chapbook Brethren, and the conceptual fiction Manufact Hologram.
“Graveyard, Monticello” and “Route 1 North, Woolich, Maine” by Tess Taylor
Both poems appear in her first book, The Forage House (Red Hen, 2013). Taylor recently had her poems featured in the exhibition Dorothea Lange: Words 7 Pictures at the Museum of Modern Art. She is also the author of Rift Zone (2020) and Work & Days (2016).
Here, Taylor discusses her career as a poet who works in archives and how the American Antiquarian Society helps foster that special work. Tess Taylor was a 2006 Robert and Charlotte Baron Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society.
2 thoughts on “Poets in the AAS Archive: Readings and Reflections”
This is a wonderful post. Thank you for bringing these artists and poets into the intellectual mix.