The semester is not only in full swing, but has somehow entered midterm season. I am in my first semester of neither teaching nor coursework as I plow through (more like dig around in) my first dissertation chapter. My current task has largely involved synthesizing Liberty Hyde Bailey’s vast and diverse work and making it legible to literary studies and ecocriticism. My advice to friends is not to ask too pointedly about how it’s going — the first chapter (so I’m told) is often the hardest to get done. Turns out the genre of the dissertation is tricky, and the stakes feel high. In the meantime, I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating on a couple projects in media other than writing.
A little over a month ago, I sat down with my good friends and colleagues in the English doctoral program at NYU, Kim Adams and Chad Hegelmeyer, to record an episode of their cohort’s podcast, The Electric Text. Chad and I had both had some formative archival experiences, and we all wanted to unpack what archival work really looks like to folks who may not have spent hours and hours in them as we have. The conversation went great, and at the tail end of it I got off on a tangent that I’ve been thinking about a lot since my last blog post, the idea that an orchard remnant is a kind of living archive — a repository of information embedded in the living tissue of tree and fruit and the land. That tangent couldn’t fit into the podcast episode, so Kim (the podcast’s prime curator/designer/constructor) put it into a sort of bonus track on its own.
Check out The Electric Text’s “Archives 1” episode here, and check out the bonus track, “John’s Apples,” here.
I’ve also been in touch with my good friend and fellow former Bailey Museum director John Stempien about a series of travel videos he has been producing called In Search of Liberty Hyde Bailey. The videos explore John’s personal exploration of Bailey’s life through the philosophy and the stories that have touched him over the years, and they also document his first trip, over a decade after beginning work at the Bailey Museum in South Haven, to Bailey’s adult home and stomping grounds in Ithaca, New York, where he joined me for several days of research and exploration of historic Bailey sites. John weaves his personal musings and Bailey’s own writings into his documentation beautifully, as he does in his episode on The Holy Earth, and the videos provide glimpses into a wide variety of places, including the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium, Cornell’s Rare and Manuscript Collection Library, Bailey’s home at Sage Place in Ithaca, and the cabin on Cayuga Lake where I spent much of my summer in Ithaca. He’s still producing these, incredibly enough, on top of his teaching at Lowell Middle School, and future episodes will feature a visit to Bailey’s farm home at Bailiwick and to Bailey’s final resting place in a decrepit community mausoleum in Lake View Cemetery. Each episode tends to clock in somewhere between three and five minutes, and I encourage you to watch them in order, if you haven’t yet, and follow John’s YouTube channel to get notifications about future videos.
Watch John Stempien’s series of travel videos, In Search of Liberty Hyde Bailey, here.
And in other non-dissertation news, I was very happy to receive word recently that my poem, “What was Precious,” had been accepted for publication in the next issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review, which is now one of the oldest online poetry journals still in publication (the first issue was Fall/Winter 1999–2000). This will be the second time VPR has published one of my poems—“Out of State” appeared in the Spring/Summer 2013 issue — and I’m deeply grateful to editor Ed Byrne for valuing my work and allowing me to join the ranks of VPR’s contributors once again.