In the Stacks with Lightsey Darst

Poet Lightsey Darst is currently a writer-in-residence at The Walker Art Center’s Resource Library. During the course of her two-week residency, she’ll post dispatches here at Unfiltered. To learn more about our Writers and Readers Library Residency Program, click here

I’m just finishing up a tough semester and I need a change—something new to think about and some enforced time for thinking. I’m also at a stage in my current creative project where I’m ready to add in some research. Finally, I have bad spring allergies, so I could use some time in controlled air!

Some things I’ve been thinking about leading up to this residency:

  • Library choreographies: This is my name for all the gestures of library use: thumbing through the card catalog, searching rows of shelves and then book spines for numbers, speaking in a quiet voice and moving in a quiet manner, bringing books to a table and then stacking them on a cart, etc. I’m old enough to have learned all this in middle school and used it through most of my schooling, but increasingly my students don’t know anything about these gestures. Trivial? I’m not sure. I think there may be something to the knowledge dance. . . which leads me to consider
  • Solid knowledge: My just-finished book DANCE, which is coming out this fall, uses appropriation a lot, reveling in the scatter, shrapnel, or swarm of words. I was thinking about the internet, about media culture, about how we live surrounded by voices. But, having finished that project, I’m naturally leaning the other way—and being pushed, I think, by dealing with some student plagiarism (cut and paste plagiarism, which is where you just grab text from the internet and use it without quotation or attribution). What really bothers me about student plagiarism is how it flattens out the idea of voice. Right now, I want to think about voice as a private thing, self-enclosed, and very much real, material, inseparable from the grain of a page.
  • The art library. Of course, the Walker’s resource library is a specific collection, about which I’m very curious. The match or mismatch between words and other arts is a lasting source of interest for me. How do we translate between one medium and another? How do you fit something like sculpture in a book? I’m also curious how the library works, how curators and others use the library, etc.
  • The private life.This is my primary research interest at the moment. I’m thinking about domesticity, homes, front doors, small things, real things; about interruptions in private life, about exile, emigration, genocide; about the relation of law and private life; about the domesticity of fairy tales; about being hidden.

Lightsey Darst is the author of Find the Girl and the forthcoming book, Dance, both published by Coffee House Press. She will read new work and talk about her residency experience at the Walker Art Center on Thursday, June 20th at 7:00 pm. Stay tuned for more details. 


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