Tag Archives: Eliza Lucas Pinckney

Erasure Poems

1). Start with a source document. Mine is a letter written in 1740 by Eliza Lucas Pinckney to her father.

2). Black out some words (or select some) or both.

3). Type up and read, edit if desired.

4). Repeat. Enjoy the variations.

I followed two rules: 1) all words in the Erasure Poem must be in the order that they appear in the source document and 2) all words must remain in their original form (i.e. the same tense or person). I made an exception to rule two and updated archaic spellings.

This technique, very popular in altered book circles, is one I’ve used for collage, but never for poetry. Relative to the historic fiction I’m writing (Eliza is one of the main characters), I was curious what might be revealed — anything new or useful about Eliza or her circumstances?

All of this was inspired by a poetry reading a few weeks back at Sam Durant‘s “The Meeting House” in Concord, Mass. (an Arts and the Landscape event sponsored by Trustees of Reservations). Four poets read. One of them was 2015 National Book Award winner for Poetry, Robin Coste Lewis (pictured above), who offered an erasure piece. It was intensely moving (you can hear her read three of her poems, here).

Letter from Eliza
to her Father, 1740
ONE

Honorable Sir,

Words to express the situation
beyond expression

the fearful immediate
danger

as I must own some
advantages
such as honor, perhaps profit too.

Put in with my just cause
the love you avoid
by unjust means.

The assurance that this life
depends on Dear Sir,
you.

Injurious to imagine
Heroism.

I deserve
this time.

You always persevere
Honorable Sir.

Your Daughter

***

Letter from Eliza
to her Father, 1740
TWO

To Colonel,

I want words
from you.

The situation terrifies us.
Immediate danger.
I must own

You are sensible.

Might some advantages arise
such as honor, profit too,
mere trifles
in the balance?

A just cause in preference
to every other means.
Courage enough
to will the thought
unworthy of you.

To pretend to Heroism
should conceal fears

and affections.

Always prayer.

Your most obedient
Daughter

***

Letter from Eliza
to her Father, 1740
THREE

To Sir,

I want words under you, us
Beyond and increased

Some place to differ

There, when put in the balance

Life
A just cause
Love

You avoid the assurance
that this welfare
injurious, I deserve.

To pretend
Heroism, I conceal
perpetual apprehensions.

I am always the prayer.

Your Eliza

***

Letter from Eliza
to her Father, 1740
FOUR

I am sensible and
I esteem the fight
as well as the love

Advantages arise

These mere trifles
honored a just cause
as well as every means
to retract anything more
than I deserve.

Mama and the Almighty
The constant prayer

Your obedient Eliza

Joy — kickstarter campaign 103% funded in two days!!

14" x 14", 2002 or 2003

14″ x 14″, 2002 or 2003


 

I am 91% funded!!!  Make that over goal.  By the afternoon, I hit 103% funded!!

This is me jumping for joy (actually, it’s Cary, about 12 years ago) — but you get the idea.  Thank you Thank you Thank you — to all of you who have contributed to my kickstarter campaign. It is remarkable to feel this support pouring in!

Do you know that Sea Island Indigo will be using indigo with provenance dating back to Eliza Lucas Pinckney’s day?!!  How cool would that be — to actually work with plants that are connected genetically to the 1740’s?

My going to this workshop feels almost as fortuitous as Eliza studying at a boarding school in England that was gifted a greenhouse when the childless next-door neighbor died.  I look at that stroke of fortune and wonder, how much flowed from that — for surely she must have discovered her love of horticulture then.
tugged-on-the-lineI just revised the campaign and it is much better now — more about my project and why the trip would be a boon, and a little less about the indigo workshop itself.  Even if you’ve been, take a second look.

Thank you, Jude, for putting me on your sidebar.  The metrics of my site show me where the donors are coming from — and your link matters (of course it matters!)

This whole process has been kind of unbelievable to me.

Thank you. Thank you.

Ken and I are heading up to Salem today.  It promises to be cooler than yesterday, which is good, because we will be rearranging furniture (among other things) at my sister’s. I am disappointed that I managed to visit Salem almost every week during the Peabody Museum’s Turner exhibit and missed it.

But with this kickstarter news, I won’t be feeling that disappointment for long!

Blood and Indigo — the great reveal

photo of photo in the Charleston Museum

photo of photo in the Charleston Museum

“Blood and Indigo” — that’s my working title for a novel about slavery and planters taking place in the mid-eighteenth century in South Carolina.  I wasn’t planning to be so open about the project just yet (though I am now more than two years into it), but there is an indigo workshop being held in September just outside of Charleston and I’ve launched a kickstarter campaign to try and garner the cost of the class and a rental car (I have miles).

IMG_2461It would be so perfect!  I traveled to Charleston this past April, as some of you know, but was only there for a short while — I took tons of pictures and did two plantation tours and visited the Chalmers Street former slave auction site and spent two afternoons in the Charleston Museum,  but this would be fabulous — I’d get to see the area in the fall (and take tons more pictures) and the indigo!!  Well, check out Sea Island Indigo!!

IMG_2454It all started with a book by India Flint called “Eco Colour”.  In it, she devotes a page to the colonial settler, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, and her work with indigo.  Next came Eliza’s letters.  Once I started asking myself, ‘what were the lives of her slaves like?’, I was off and running.

from my indigo vat, 2012

from my indigo vat, 2012

For more than two years now, I have been writing, writing, writing, and researching, researching, researching (there’s an example of great writing right there!). I have learned so much about American history that I feel like a different person than when I started out.  Reading history about the enslaved changes you. Details about the slave trade, the slave codes, the brutality, the labor practices, the attempts at rebellion, the words used by the elite to describe “their” African Americans — all change you. The most recent and best thing I have read about racism (I cannot recommend this article enough) was published in a recent issue of The Atlantic Monthly, and it’s called “The Case for Reparations”.  Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, it is hard-hitting, incredibly full of examples of ongoing harm, and it will make you shake your head in sadness and wonder at what we are — we Americans, this America.

An African American crafter, as part of the weekend, will be teaching participants rag quilting and talking about Gullah culture.  I cannot say how perfect this event feels as a boost for my writing project!
manacle

paper piece revealing what must be the name of one of Eliza's sons

paper piece revealing what must be the name of one of Eliza’s sons, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

Even if a donation does not make sense for you at this time, please share my excitement for this work!  And now that the cat is out of the bag, I will feel freer to discuss what I am learning here on the blog, and hope you will gladly come along for the ride.

The Textile Wing at the Charleston Museum

The textile wing of the Charleston Museum in South Carolina featured some beautiful quilts (mostly antique), garments from the colonial era on through to the 70’s, embellished accessories, and very intriguing notions.

IMG_2577

Embroidered Satin Bag, c. 1795. Attributed to Margaret Dick Burgess

IMG_2554 I didn’t know what ‘toilet pins’ were, so I looked them up.  An online draper called Merchant & Mills, gave me this tidbit:

…traditional toilet pins are an unusual pin being quite long at 45mm. Before the button became commonplace, many clothes were pinned together and a lady would have pins on her dressing table. The toilet pins come from and era when one would need pins for hats, corsage,etc. 

IMG_2580

Silk Embroidered Bag, from 1920’s

IMG_2560

Crib quilt, c. 1889. Log cabin variation made by Mary Louisa Schirmer Tiedeman

IMG_2566

incredibly small hexagons — dime-sized?

IMG_2565

“Field of Diamonds”, c. 1820. Maria Boyd Schulz

Don’t you just love the beautiful poking tools in the silk-lined box?IMG_2555 IMG_2563Paper pieced. More chintz. One of the names on the star below, “C.C. Pinckney” must refer to Charles Cotesworth Pinckney — one of Eliza Lucas Pinckney’s two sons.  Eliza Lucas Pinckney was a remarkable British settler who helped establish indigo as a crop and valuable commodity in the 1740’s. star-close

IMG_2572 IMG_2573 IMG_2574 IMG_2575These Civil War era fabrics must have faded some. I wonder what they looked like 200 years ago. I can’t imagine them appealing to me any more than they do at this saturation.

There was one contemporary quilt. IMG_2569

"Memphis Blues", 2000. Mary Alma Parker

“Memphis Blues”, 2000. Mary Alma Parker

I apologize for the blurriness of the pictures (better ones in this flickr set), but I hope you can see that the hexagons in this quilt are made to appear dimensional both through color/pattern choices and a willingness to let the surface ‘poof’ a little. The color of the surround was a deep and appealing blue, while the center panel of paper-pieced hexagons exuberantly combined prints. Notice, too, that in places one of the surrounding ‘petals’ does not match.  Sometimes the center color fades and blends with its ‘flower’ and other times the color selected practically pops off the quilt with contrast. Skillful blending of tone and color give the panel this lovely fluid feel, as the colors fade from dark to light to dark again.

I assumed looking at the work that its maker is African American. Why? Because of the title, the lively use of prints and the occasional departure from pattern (print mixes and departure from pattern being well-appreciated and documented signatures of the Gee’s Bend quilts, as well). Does anyone know? I couldn’t find anything online, even with a variety of search terms and approaches.  I DID learn that Parker is a very common name, as is “Mary Alma”.  Turning up various treasure troves of genealogy featuring white Parker families proves nothing one way or the other, of course, given that many slaves took their owners’ names once upon a time.