September 11, 2018

Author Realia

There is something about the homes, writing desks and objects from writers' lives that people find fascinating.

The New York Public Library's Berg Collection is an archive containing of manuscripts and archival materials. The NYPL labels as "realia" non-paper items.

They have Charlotte Brontë’s writing desk (with a lock of her hair inside) Jack Kerouac's harmonicas, boots, lighter and a card upon which he wrote 'blood' in his own blood. Interesting, but what would we hope to take from these objects or from typewriters belonging to S. J. Perelman and Paul Metcalf, Mark Twain’s pen and wire-rimmed glasses, Vladimir Nabokov’s butterfly drawings?

As a poet, what would you take away from viewing the death masks of the poets James Merrill and E. E. Cummings? They might inspire you to write about the poets, I suppose.

On March 28, 1941, Virginia Woolf took her final walk, into the River Ouse near her home in Sussex with her her trusty cane in hand and you can see that cane with her things in the short New Yorker video below.

Does being in the presence of a writer's "realia" impart some creative or other spirit to the viewer? I know that I have felt something when I have visited the homes and even the graves of writers. I haven't decided on what that something might be.

There are some writing prompts to be found in these homes and in the objects there. I know I felt it when I walked through Walt Whitman's home and visited his grave.

Have you ever experienced this yourself? Share that experience in a comment to this post.

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