Friday, May 21, 2010
I’d like to be forgotten. Wouldn’t you?
At a recent poetry reading I attended near Wilmington, two poets who read during the open reading part of the event, as they often do, prefaced their reading with a few remarks. One poet, in his remarks, mentioned an estate which is now a park just north of Wilmington called Rockwood. Rockwood is the former home of one of Wilmington's early founders, William Shipley. There still stands in proximity of the Rockwood mansion a coach house. In that coach house it is reported that the early 20th century Delaware novelist John Biggs, Jr. wrote one or both of his novels, Demigods and Seven Days Whipping. It has also been reported that John P. Marquand, the only novelist born in Delaware to have earned a Pulitzer, lived in the same coach house for a spell. That report would have been a nice addition to remarks made about Rockwood, which may have filled in some of those empty places in our knowledge of the local literary community that preceded us.
At the same poetry reading event, another poet in her preparatory remarks mentioned Slaughter Beach in Sussex County. She reflected for a few moments about how the place got its name. Was it named after a person named Slaughter? Perhaps, if I recall correctly, she speculated whether a large number of animals were killed there. Actually, the reason for the name is far worse. It had been a location where local native Americans were massacred by European colonialist. The event is an important part of a story by John Loland, Delaware's first important literary author and poet. The story is "Ono-keo-co, or the Bandit of the Brandywine.” Of course, by the way we regard our past local writers and poets, the poet who read at this recent poetry reading can't be blamed for not knowing a work that's been out of print for nearly 150 years. But wouldn't it be nice to have access to these works from our predecessors? Wouldn't having a better idea of those on whose literary shoulders we stand in our local literary history enhance our appreciation of ourselves? Or maybe, and at this point probably, we and our work will be forgotten too. I'd like that. Or as the American novelist William S. Burroughs use to ask, in refrain, wouldn't you?