www.common-place.org · vol. 1 · no. 3 · April 2001
Nicole Cooley is an assistant professor of English at Queens College--the City University of New York. Her first book of poetry, Resurrection (Baton Rouge, 1996), won the 1995 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. She has also written a novel, Judy Garland, Ginger Love (New York, 1998).
Wallace Stevens once observed that "poetry is a scholar's art." I am interested in the ways that poetry and research might intersect and the ways that poetry can explore "voice" beyond the poet's individual experience. My book of poetry, The Afflicted Girls, looks at what happened in Salem in 1692 from a variety of perspectives--the accusers', the accused's, bystanders'--those whose lives were forever changed by the accusations, trials, and executions.
The Afflicted Girls is composed of four different kinds of poems: poems that narrate the experience of the trials from the viewpoint of specific people (for example, a man who helped his wife escape from prison, a four-year-old girl accused of being a witch); poems that reference and incorporate colonial American verse and prose forms (including the sermon and the jeremiad); poems that pay tribute to the archival experience and explore the conception of the poet as archivist; and poems that investigate the lasting effects of the Salem witch trials on present-day America (poems that revisit the museums in Salem, for instance). Thus, the poems examine both the social structures contributing to the accusations as well as the relationships between people that were wounded or destroyed by the suspicions, convictions, and executions.
Discuss this article in the Republic of Letters
Copyright © 2001 Common-place The Interactive Journal of Early American Life, Inc., all rights reserved