Poetry and the Disorientation of Historical Objects

Jan Selving

East Stroudsburg University


I will be presenting original poems written in response to my experience visiting “designed” historical parks, namely Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI and the Edgar Allan Poe House in Philadelphia. Sites such as these offer privileged, distilled views of historically and culturally iconic figures and places and thereby distort the poems’ speaker’s sense of place and time. At Greenfield Village, buildings and objects auto magnate Henry Ford relocated from their original sites are reduced to mere stages. The rooms in Edgar Allan Poe’s house have been left in a state of “arrested decay” (curatorial language) and echo the bleakness often found in Poe’s work. Unlike Greenfield Village’s room-sized buildings neatly arranged along a brick path, there is some attempt at authenticity in Poe’s house. The empty rooms, and crumbling plaster are jarring, even disturbing. However, while this experience may mirror the effect of Poe’s fiction, the setting is still contrived. My poems attempt to capture the sense of ungrounded-ness, of disorientation one experiences at Greenfield Village and Edgar Allan Poe’s house.

2018 National Conference
Presentation type: 
Creative work