Saturday, June 25, 2022

for the love of research

Lady Mary Wroth

My first official (non-trial) assignment for the antique site I am writing dictionary entries for was devoted to collectible children's girl scout books, mostly handbooks, but other scouting-related publications. The history and evolution of the girl scout manual are interesting, going all the way back to when Juliette Gordon Low started the organization and penned the very first, a slender 16-page pamphlet. I followed it up with children's biographies, and while a little more complex and less sourced a topic, I managed to cobble together enough to make a go at it. It occurred to me as I backtracked info on things available in places like eBay, Ruby Lane, and Etsy, different books, and publishing imprints, how much I enjoy that sort of research and always have. I always joke that it makes ample use of my web stalking skills, which I've used in many ways, nefarious and less so, over the years. Not only was I excellent at seeing what old flames might be up to for my own curiosity, but also found a dress I may have seen on the street but had no details on.  Or a cool vintage dish or lamp I spotted in a decor magazine. I am usually pretty successful in my hunts. Some of it is surely my librarian-ish heart and past jobs, my experiences in graduate school, and just being a poet who uses research as a huge part of her process. 

This week's writing jobs were a mix, from the antique site to finishing up text and video script for the Chicago neighborhood guides I'm contributing to. My lessons were a mixed bag--Egyptian ruins, Macbeth and Othello, Sustainable Architecture, Demons. Sometimes it's things I know a lot about, but sometimes, it's entirely new.  I took a lesson this week on Lady Mary Wroth's "Pamphilia and Amphilantus," which I was completely unfamiliar with, strange considering she was one of the first women to write a sonnet sequence during the Renaissance and the first to write it from a female character p-o-v.  While admittedly my working knowledge of Renaissance lit is pretty much just Shakespeare and Milton, I was surprised to discover her work and spent an afternoon researching her and reading the sonnet sequence, which was published as an addendum to a novel, The Countess of Montgomery's Urania.

One of the pleasures of the work I am doing is such discoveries. To spend this time researching and writing almost exclusively some days. The writing itself is more arduous sometimes depending on my mood, and I put in long days so I can devote other days to creative things during the week,  but it is an enjoyable sort of work and one I am very good at. I've learned so much, be it architectural styles, artist biographies, girl scout memorabilia facts, or the delicious and intriguing existence of a garlicky plantain-based Puerto Rican sandwich you can find in Humboldt Park I am going to have to go in search of ASAP. 


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