• Obscure Items in Obscure Places

    During one of my many travels through abandoned insane asylums, I stumbled upon a forgotten object that now calls my antique armoire home. Rockland County Psychiatric Center holds a special place in my heart as it’s one of the first abandoned insane asylums I’ve ever explored. But its history is what enchanted me long before I stepped foot onto its soil, and I’m ecstatic that I was able to explore its beauty on multiple occasions.

    Established in 1927, Rockland County Psychiatric Center can be found within a barrier of birch and evergreen trees on the backroads of New York. The active mental hospital, which only treats severe cases of schizophrenia and manic depression, sits atop the hill surveying its decaying predecessor. The hospital’s gray cement buildings with secured windows dazed and entranced ... Read more ...

  • A New Home for a Historic House in Trumbull


    John Naeher, director of operations at Christian Heritage School of Trumbull, Connecticut, was in balmy Orlando on a school errand in April 2015 when he received a distressing call.

    Bob Dunn, the building inspector in Trumbull, had stopped over to look at the dilapidated house on the edge of campus that Christian Heritage had just purchased. To John’s horror, Bob delivered a troubling assessment over the phone: “This house probably can’t be saved. I don’t believe it’s structurally sound.”

    John, responding with his characteristically quiet determination, asked, “Bob, can I meet you there with our engineer and architect next week? Let’s all look at this house with fresh eyes.”

    As John, Bob, engineer Phil Katz, and architect Brian ... Read more ...

  • Anna’s Billy Club

    Grandma always blamed the pain in her arthritic knees on the diner.

    Anna was a small-framed, round-shouldered, stately old woman dressed in black. She had sunken cheeks on a round, wrinkled face, topped with thinning white hair made a bit blue during Easter and Christmas. Her small, dark eyes, sharply observing, and her thin lips almost, barely, hinting a smile—that’s how she looked. She was a good listener and her few words were well chosen.

    She emigrated to the United States, to New York, from Hungary in 1920, when she was thirteen years old.

    “Jamaica, Queens,” she used to comment, a bit of short of breath. “Oh, I think about working the counter—we had ten seats, you know, the round red-cushion kind with chrome rings all around? The seats would spin around; their bases ... Read more ...

  • Ode to a Bright Idea

    A common household annoyance begins with a flash and a small puff of smoke. It’s time to change a light bulb. However, imagine if you had a light bulb that never burned out. My mother has one of those in our family home. She says it’s an original carbon filament light bulb that has been burning for over half a century.

    In 1952, the year before my mother was born, my grandparents bought their first house, in which they intended to raise a family. The light bulb came with the house, burning softly in the narrow hallway between what would be their children’s bedrooms. When the family moved in 1967, my fifteen-year-old mother decided to take the bulb with them. Each night, as she slept with her door open just a crack, ... Read more ...

  • A Mysterious German Bible from 1898

    When I was sixteen, a European exchange student enrolled at my small-town high school for the year. I was, of course, instantly infatuated and placed myself front and center to gain his favor. He was from Germany and we were together for a year and a half. The latter fifty percent of our relationship took place with me pining away in Connecticut and him pining away back home in Germany. Not exactly a recipe for success, but, nearly two decades later, I still carry fond memories of that time in my life.

    A year or so after he went home, I was still obsessed with all things German. I noticed a friend was in possession of a book so old, the cover was crumbling and the spine had flaked off, revealing the ... Read more ...

  • Campbell Soup Kids

    I found a toy that may have belonged to your great-grandparents once upon a time. A little thrift store called Safe Haven sells items that were once held so dear to someone that they were pristinely cleaned and cared for, and they stood the test of time. Located in the heart of a retirement community in the small town of Southbury, CT, Safe Haven inherits antiques, some with rich history and a story to tell.

    One day, I ventured into the store out of curiosity and staring at me was a curious looking doll made to stand upright on a metal rod going up and around its neck like a retainer.

    That’s a little extravagant for a doll, I thought.

    The doll’s head felt ... Read more ...

  • An American Lord in the British Court

    My boyfriend Travis’s family can trace its lineage all the way back to Sybil Ludington. Having the blood of an original patriot like her running through their veins makes it no surprise that his family’s other ancestors have played their parts in history. They have fought in multiple wars, including World War II. Travis’s great-grandfather died in that war, while his great-uncle worked as a spy.

    While digging through some of his grandfather’s mementos, we came across newspaper clippings. Unfortunately, they do not include a year, and Travis’s grandfather wasn’t sure when they were from. World War II, he assumed. None of the articles appeared to contain anything significant, but one mentioned the coronation of King Edward and was written about five years after he took the throne. He was crowned in 1902, ... Read more ...

  • The Crying Ghost

    A direct ancestor of a friend was hanged as a witch in Salem, Mass.

    “My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother,” said Mary Broas, “was accused twice.”

    Susannah Martin was hanged on July 19, 1692 after being found guilty of causing damages through witchcraft by those who did not like her. Her husband successfully defended her the first time, but after his death, Martin was helpless. She was strong and defiant until the end. She laughed at her accusers and proclaimed her innocence. Though the Broas family does not have any direct information about this incident, their connection to Salem witchcraft was discovered by Mary’s brother, who traced their genealogy all the way back to Europe.

    This October, out of curiosity and ... Read more ...

  • Creating a Racket

    A film recently came out starring Steve Carell and Emma Stone titled Battle of the Sexes. It’s a dramatization of a famous tennis match in 1973 between men’s tennis player Bobby Riggs and women’s tennis player Billie Jean King. Spoiler alert: King won the match, and that victory was a sizable step for women’s tennis on the “taken-seriously”-o-meter.

    If you’re wondering why I’m bringing this up, it’s because, after rummaging in my basement for one of my old comic books, I stumbled upon an interesting piece of paraphernalia: an official Bobby Riggs tennis racket from the 1940s, in relatively good condition.

    Apparently, my grandmother used this racket in her teenage years playing tennis. She passed it on to my father, ... Read more ...

  • New York’s Letter System

    While I was staying at the Roosevelt in New York for a writers’ conference, courtesy of my dad donating his vacation points, I stumbled upon a U.S. Mail letter chute. It was showcased almost like a piece of art in between the various elevators in the hotel. I became curious about how this system was used, and how it came to be, so I did a little digging.

    Turns out this letter chute evolved from collection boxes that were placed inside all sorts of businesses throughout cities like New York. While there were hundreds of them and their contents were collected several times a day, citizens still complained. One problem was that they could only be accessed during business hours, and on top of that, they ... Read more ...

  • Uncle Aron, His Chairs, and a 103-Year-Old Postcard

    I was digging around the house recently for something old and vaguely interesting, when I uncovered a white box in the basement. In this box were numerous photographs, some in color, most in black and white. While all of them were rather eye-catching, one in particular caught my attention. It was an old photo postcard, the front depicting eight distinguished-looking gentlemen, while the back was covered in cursive so detailed I couldn’t even read it save for the year at the top: 1914.

    That in itself gave me pause. Upon close inspection I recognized that the language written there was Romanian, but since it was written with English characters, I couldn’t tell at first glance. To think that, in just one century, the standard ... Read more ...

  • What’s in a Name?

    One day, a random conversation with a friend named Joukje—pronounced “Yaaook”—led to a discussion about birth certificates. Joukje was born on February 17, 1947 in the Netherlands, exactly a day before the birth of Princess Christina of the Netherlands. To celebrate the birth of the princess, her mother, Queen Juliana, sent a congratulatory card to the parents of every girl-child born in the country that week. Joukje’s parents received one, too. Each card was attached to a pinafore, which was mailed to new parents all over the country. The message of congratulations was sent under a formal letterhead straight from the desk of Paleis Soestdijk.

    This led me to dig out my own birth certificate for a closer view. When I first discovered my Indian ... Read more ...

  • A Local Act of Conservation: Remembrance Through Digital Memorials

    Cindy Davis is a retired third-grade teacher. When she began her retirement three years ago, she turned her attention more fully toward the exploration and documentation of her family genealogy. One piece of the puzzle was finding the tombstones and burial sites of her ancestors and photographing them for inclusion in her personal family tree album as well as on the website Find a Grave. Find a Grave is a website that documents gravesites, and visitors can create virtual memorials for deceased friends and family. Within Find a Grave, she found notes from people looking for photographs of ancestors’ tombstones—people too far away from the cemeteries their relatives were buried in. That’s when Davis’s attention turned toward helping other families. Through Find a Grave, she found people searching for information about deceased relatives tombstones ... Read more ...

  • Thank You for Your Service

    Thank You for Your Service, an art exhibition by Melanie Bernier, consists of hand-crafted flags that commemorate greater Boston music venues. Each flag stands for an individual music venue that is now defunct.

    Bernier has performed in all of these spaces. She calls them DIY spaces, i.e., community-oriented, shared spaces. Bernier is one of many artists who rely on performance venues like these in order to grow in a supportive environment. 

    DIY performance venues lack funds for necessary renovations, so they are often closed quickly. They have brief but dramatic life cycles. In the words of one Boston artist, interviewed by WBUR in 2016, “I think we all know artists have a knack for finding cool, cheap parts of town. Then they make them ... Read more ...

  • Earth Day

    In 1975, when I was ten years old, my parents drove my three older brothers and me down to Sandusky, Ohio, to Cedar Point Amusement Park. We lived just north of Detroit, and Sandusky was only an hour south as the crow flies. Lake Erie borders that corner between Michigan and Ohio, so we had to drive two and a half hours to bend around the huge lake. I remember driving down I-75, the mid-August humidity filling our station wagon like a bag of wet cement. There was no escaping the heat; air conditioning was not standard in those days, neither were seat belts. I was the youngest, so I sat in the way-back of our Ford LTD station wagon. From there, I stared at the great lake, which emerged into view shortly after traveling through downtown ... Read more ...

  • Earthworks

    Standing beside the breastworks on that summer evening, under the shadow of grim and silent Kennesaw, with twilight deepening into night, there were shadows on all our hearts as well, shadows that stretched beyond us and fell on hearts and hearthstones far away, shadows that rest there still and never will be lifted.

    -Walter Clark, 1st Georgia Infantry1


    In 2016, I visited Cheatam Hill, near Atlanta; it was the site where colonel Daniel McCook, Jr. was fatally wounded in battle in 1864. After being shot by Confederate forces, McCook, a Colonel with the Illinois Regiment, was carted off of the field and later succumbed to his injuries. His sword was collected and passed among family members until it ended in the hands of his relatives in Connecticut. ... Read more ...

  • Cleopatra’s Needle


    The obelisk rises above the trees like the uncurling index finger of something ancient reaching for the distant stars. The monument is inscribed in the faded hieroglyphs of a dead language, and at its base are four distinctly more modern black stone crabs that seem to be supporting the seventy-foot pillar between them. Beyond the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where thousands of artifacts lay in glass display cases under 24-hour security, the obelisk that has seen the rise and fall of over a hundred empires stands erected almost as an afterthought, accessible by a single path extending from the web of hidden wonders that is Central Park. Built around 1,450 BC, the 220-ton Egyptian obelisk is one of three stone obelisks gifted to Paris, London, and New York City in 1869. The gift marks one of the ... Read more ...

  • What This Record Told Me

    The first time I finally went to a record store, I found a slightly beat up copy of Cat Stevens’ Teaser and the Firecat. My dad had always mentioned that his dad, my grandfather, had loved Cat Stevens. He died long before I was ever born, and the album got me thinking about what type of person my grandfather, Francis Vincent Kinsella, was.

    I knew that he was an Irishman and was just as stubborn as Irishmen are traditionally described. My father told me had a degree in chemical engineering and pursued a master’s in literature just for fun. Although his job was in engineering, he always loved English.

    One of the first things I remember hearing about my grandfather is that he was the one who chose my father’s name. He named ... Read more ...

  • Lost & Found: Relics of a World War II Bride

    Sometimes the retrieval of a lost personal effect can transport the memory across seas, decades, even wars. Such was the kind of effect my grandmother, Valerie Skaanning, unexpectedly received at her Connecticut residence, sometime around 1990.1 The package in the mail was from her hometown of Plymouth, England, and it had been sent by her older brother, Roy Furnace. Inside she found a well-worn book of world geography and a letter from her brother.

    As the letter explained, Roy and his wife Margaret had recently gone to a used book fair in Plymouth, where they had enjoyed browsing through many old titles. At the fair, Roy had found the geography book, which caught his attention because it bore the stamp of his sister’s old high school: Devonport High School for Girls. This discovery prompted him to check the sign-out card inside the book, where ... Read more ...

  • Six-Word Shorts

    These six-word stories were written in response to this photograph of a married couple living in Holland in the 1800s. Many thanks to all our contributors from the WCSU MFA program.


    Imagine checking for lice in that.

                                        -Kevin Hudson


    “It’s really her mustache I’m wearing.”

                                        -Ben Dreskin


    Arsenic in his coffee every day.

                                        -Justin O’Donnell






    “Bon Voyage.”

                                        -Beth D. Man


    He sat.

    She stood.

    They cried.

                                        -Anna Denisch


    Steph Myers
    Blog Editor

    Read more ...
  • Bob Dylan and Horace Purdy: Two Writers Who Teach Us about History

    In 1961, after moving from Minnesota to New York City, a singer-songwriter named Bob Dylan was looking for a deeper perspective on America’s past. He found it at the archives of the New York Public Library. In one of the rooms on its upper floors, Dylan read through 100-year-old newspapers on microfilm. His interest was the Civil War.

    Dylan wanted a sense of the daily life and culture of the period. In his memoir Chronicles, Dylan states he wasn’t looking for issues but was “intrigued by the language and rhetoric of the times.” In studying those times, he found the “full complexity of human nature” but still wondered how “such people united by geography and religion can become bitter enemies.” Dylan wrote, “Back then, America was put on the cross, sacrificed and resurrected,” and “there was nothing synthetic about it.” By “resurrected,” Dylan did not ... Read more ...

  • Archive Series: Puppets, Masks, and Process

    “. . . the art of how you tell a story is often as meaningful to the audience and as moving to the audience as the story itself.”1

    —Julie Taymor, Director and Costume Designer for The Lion King

    On a recent visit to the Haas Library Archives at Connecticut State University, a shadow puppet and a mask caught my attention. Little information about them was available, but subsequent investigation suggests that they are from Indonesia. In the United States, puppets and masks may often be thought of as mere toys, reminders of Sesame Street, Halloween, or, perhaps, Mardi Gras. Yet, they have a long history of significance in cultures across the world.

    According to Jukka Miettinen in Asian Traditional Theater and Dance, shadow puppet theater on the island of Java, at the center of Indonesia, dates back to AD ... Read more ...

  • Archive Series: The Internet and the Future of Digital Preservation

    “We don’t know where this Internet is going, and once we get there it will be very instructive to look back.”1

    —Donald Heath, president of the Internet Society in Reston, Virginia

    By my door, along with a stack of items to be dropped off at charities and recycling centers, sits a bag of 3.5” floppy disks. They’re left over from college days, and we’ve moved them from house to house, thinking someday we’d get around to seeing what’s on them, printing off anything we want, and ditching the disks. It hasn’t happened, and in a frustrated cleaning spurt I decided to just toss the lot. We haven’t looked at them in twenty years, what would we ever miss?

    Yet there they sit; and I can’t bring myself to throw them away because once they’re gone whatever might be ... Read more ...

  • Archive Series: A Kind Warning About History

    Truman Warner served in World War II as a medic. He then went on to a career as a professor, author, and historian. He captured much of the war in his photos and clippings. All of these materials have since been preserved in a digital archive at Western Connecticut State University (WCSU).

    “The scrapbook had decayed substantially…” That one line, taken from the Truman Warner Collection, sums up much of what it means to work with primary sources. Decay, the natural way of things, forever works against us as we try to preserve reminders of the past. It works especially fast on paper and people, both of which we need to make sense of our history.

    In Warner’s case, we benefit from the meticulous organization of his wartime experience. The collection might not exist if he’d returned from the war, stuffed all his memories ... Read more ...

  • Archives in the News

    USA Today recently announced that the Broadway show Hamilton, winner of eleven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, is also being recognized by the National Archives Foundation. Lead actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Tommy Kail, and biographer Ron Chernow will receive the Records of Achievement award. In the words of Foundation Chair A’Lelia Bundles, “. . . they have turned the early American history of our textbooks into an exciting culture phenomenon. Their daring storytelling ignites our interest in the people who shaped our nation and makes us want to know more about the origins of the complex political debates that continue today.”1

    The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is responsible for the records of our nation. Other archives maintain records for individuals, families and institutions and can be a source, not only of information, but also of inspiration. The staff of Poor Yorick recently visited the ... Read more ...

  • Council Rock

    According to local traditions, the rock formation was a gathering place for the Schaghticoke tribe. Chief Squantz, who held sway over the Schaghticoke in the early 1700s, could stand there, as if at a pulpit, and address a large gathering of his tribesmen.

    Today it is hidden in the thick woods above Squantz Pond in New Fairfield, Connecticut, accessible only to intrepid hikers willing to work up a sweat finding it. It is worth the effort. Council Rock is a fascinating piece of both natural history and Native American History.

    One giant round slab of rock rests above other rocks forming a natural canopy or veranda, depending on what perspective you look at it from. For Chief Squantz, after whom Squantz Pond is named, it apparently served as a stage, a place where he could stand and see people approaching and where many ... Read more ...

  • Boys on Battlefields

    Thirteen-year-old Charley King was the youngest soldier killed in the war. Orion Howe received a Medal of Honor for the bravery he displayed, also at age thirteen. William Horsfall was not more than fifteen when he rescued his wounded captain and he, too, received a Medal of Honor for his heroism.1

    All three were drummer boys in the American Civil War.

    For centuries, drums were used in wartime. Their low tones could be heard in battle and distinct rhythms were used to represent the various orders conveyed by the commanding officers. During the Civil War, approximately forty different beats were employed, not only during combat, but also to structure the soldiers’ everyday life. They announced the time for camp duties, meals, and formations. They boosted morale, made marches more orderly, and intimidated the opposition.2

    The average age of drummers in the Civil War was ... Read more ...

  • Court, Community, and Connection:
     The American Museum of Tort Law and Assistant Director Sara Nowak

    The American Museum of Tort Law, founded by consumer advocate Ralph Nader, is the first of its kind. Located in Winsted, Connecticut, the museum traces the history of important events that resulted in landmark litigation. Its exhibits mainly consist of political cartoons that present important concepts with panache. The visuals grab attention while expressing the relationship between these laws and our daily life. 

    The American Museum of Tort Law highlights the place of tort litigation in our society. Tort laws promote carefulness, reinforce a sense of fairness, and compensate victims. They obligate people and institutions to follow certain rules. A concept paper for the museum states: “Tort law embodies the conviction that it is better to build a fence at the top of a cliff than to keep an ambulance parked at the bottom.”1

    Sara ... Read more ...

  • Poetry and Yoga


    . . . sometimes words are a powerful means of carrying us into the language of the body.1

    —Liz Huntly, Elephant Journal

    The art of poetry has changed over time and has been adapted for different languages and cultures, but it has endured for thousands of years. Yoga, too, is ancient. According to Timothy Burgi, instructor and executive director of Yoga Basics, “The development of yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago, but some researchers think that yoga may be up to 10,000 years old.” 2

    It is not unusual for yoga teachers to recite poems for their classes. Lara Ward, founder of Lotus Gardens Yoga, has read “Wild Geese,” by Mary Oliver, to her students in the autumn. The reason, she told me, is ... Read more ...

  • Word Walks

    What is the benefit of the wide proclamation as opposed to the slow reveal?IMG_0636

    Tributes to literature in two different cities help to answer this question. In mid-Manhattan, the Library Way showcases metal relief plaques sunk into the ground; it is a best-of quote series that was donated by the Grand Central Partnership and other organizations in 1998.1

    Hartford, Connecticut has its own word walk, but its location does not engage as much foot traffic. It sits by the side of the road and is not immediately attributable. Walking alongside the tombstone-shaped marble, one notices the striking words:

    He rode over ConnecticutIMG_0658
    In a glass coach.
    Once, a fear pierced him,
    In that he mistook
    The shadow of his ... Read more ...

  • Quilting as Community: A Trip to the Wood Memorial Library & Museum in South Windsor, Connecticut

    The most vivid memory of my first visit to The Wood Memorial Library & Museum is of the 103 ½-inch-x-89-inch quilt that caught my eye when I walked in the main entrance and glanced toward the staircase that leads to the second floor.

    The South Windsor Bicentennial Quilt was unveiled at the town 1976 Spring Fair by members of The Wapping Community Church Women’s (WCCW) group. In celebration of our country’s 200th birthday, the WCCW designed and created a quilt depicting the history of South Windsor, Connecticut. The quilt contains forty-two squares, and each details a scene from the historic community. Squares include: Foster Farm, Podunk Mill, Wood Memorial Library, Bossen’s General Store, and the South Windsor Post Office. Each unique, beautiful square harmonizes with the quilt pattern as a whole, much like each community institution works together to form the town.

    I ... Read more ...

  • Celebrating National Quilting Month: Why I Make Quilts of All Sizes

    March is National Quilting Month. Poor Yorick celebrates with a series of essays reflecting upon this time-honored craft.

    Anyone can make a quilt. Seriously, anyone can do it. It’s like making a peanut butter sandwich, only with cloth, using the simplest tools imaginable: a sewing machine, or a sewing needle, and some thread. The truth is, it’s not hard, it’s immensely satisfying, and you can sleep under the finished product. Once you are lying under a cloth sandwich that was handmade, it’s hard not to love this very old tradition.

    I started my love affair with cloth as a child, when my mother made me learn to sew. Talk with quilters and many of them have the same story: a female relative taught them the basics. In my adult years, I began making quilts in earnest when my hyperactive little boys finally went to ... Read more ...

  • Call for Submissions: National Quilt Month, March 2016

    March is National Quilt Month and Poor Yorick is looking for essays and photos that highlight the artistry and tradition of this time-honored craft.

    Is there a quilt that is special to you, because of its design, history or place in your family? Do you have a related story that
    you want to share with others?

    To submit an essay, please send us a piece of at least 300 words. If you wish to send a photo, please attach it in an email
    along with a description of at least 200 words that places the image in context and includes its location.

    Send all materials to: by March 3rd.

    Poor Yorick will publish selections on Fridays throughout the month of March.

    Read more ...
  • Butler-McCook House Genealogical Research: Then and Now

    Hartford, Connecticut has a long history, starting in the seventeenth century. Many people, including Frances McCook of the Butler-McCook House on Main Street, have researched this city’s past to find out the impact the past had on current events.

    Frances McCook, born in 1877 in Hartford, had a passion for history and genealogy. Her passion led her to research her family’s genealogy. She traced her lineage back to the Founders of Hartford, who came from Massachusetts to create their own community in 1637. Without the advantage of today’s technologies, Frances looked through probate records, birth and death records, and marriage records in the library to create an elaborate family tree to document her family’s history. Frances lived in a home built on land purchased by her great-grandfather, Daniel Butler, in 1782 and had been in her family ever since. After Frances passed away in 1971, her ... Read more ...

  • At the End of the Ice at the Top of the World: Ghosts

    Everything I’d been doing the past five days was surreal, so why should this moment be any different?

    himalaya Cresting a steep hill, I passed under a banner of Buddhist prayer flags and entered a wide plateau. Our guide set down his pack and called for a break as I struggled to moderate my breath rate.

    Though our goal of Everest Base Camp, in the Himalayas of Nepal, lay miles ahead, we now stood at just over 16,000 feet. The hill I’d climbed leveled off to this space that funneled into a wide valley ahead. Between the hill and the valley are a collection of memorials to climbers who have died on Himalayan peaks, mostly Everest. Stacks of rocks arranged in large cairns were scattered around the ridge, prayer flags strung between them.

    Read more ...

  • Skull Talk: Stone Church in Dover New York a Shrine of History & Natural Beauty

    They call it the Stone Church. It’s a natural cavern above a brook in the woods off of Route 22 in Dover Plains, New York. Its entrance, formed by giant boulders, shaped haphazardly over the eons, forms an upside down “V” that gives it the appearance of a steeple.Stone Church

    I visited the church shortly before sunset on a summer’s day. At that time there was something solemn and haunting about the place, which perhaps is only fitting. Though beautiful today, the Stone Church has a history marred by death and betrayal.

    It was here, according to tradition, in the year of 1637, that the Pequot War came to its gruesome conclusion.

    The war was fought over the fur trade and trading access to various colonies. The Pequot Tribe had long feuded ... Read more ...

  • An Interview with Sharon Woodward and David Moon on their Collaboration with the Documentary Film More Than Just a Mirror

    After viewing More Than Just a Mirror, a documentary on mirror dating back to the Iron Age, Poor Yorick reached out to the filmmaker to find out more. Sharon Woodward is a filmmaker and runs WoodwardMedia. She agreed to speak with us, and broadened the conversation by including David Moon, the Curator of Archaeology at Oxfordshire Museums Services.


    PY: What drew you to the Didcot mirror?

    SW: I’m actually a filmmaker, not an archaeologist, therefore my interest in the Iron Age mirror really developed after I was commissioned to make the film. I have worked previously with Oxfordshire Museum/Museum Resource Centre on a previous project, “History In The Making,” where I made three short documentaries covering three artifacts: a wooden rowing oar, Roman tombstone of a Roman Solder (Lucius Valerius Geminus), and an Anglo-Saxon Sword.

    David Moon, the Curator of Archaeology, ... Read more ...

  • The Mirror’s Eccentric History

    For millennia, mirrors have not only served as objects for personal grooming, but also for magic, light, weapons, and even prototype cameras. We’ve come a long way from that first mirror, a still puddle or pool with a dark bottom. Today’s man-made mirrors maintain reflective properties but add more consistent clarity and, unlike a pool of water, they are portable. Over the years, mirrors became prized objects for refreshing our personal appearance.

    In the 3rd century BCE, Archimedes of Syracuse weaponized the mirror. He is said to have turned mirrors into heat rays, redirecting the sun to the tarred, flammable wood of Carthaginian ships.

    Mirrors are also an important part of Greek and Roman literature. Greek mythology tells of Nemeses luring a proud Narcissus to a pool, knowing the latter would fall in love with his own reflection. The story gave posterity two new words. ... Read more ...

  • Interview with Jennifer DiCola Matos, Executive Director of the Noah Webster House

    Jennifer DiCola Matos is the executive director of the Noah Webster House in West Hartford, Connecticut. The house was the birthplace and early home of Noah Webster, author of The Blue Back Speller and An American Dictionary of the English Language. The house runs tours seven days a week and provides programming that serves the community.


    PY: How would you describe the position of Executive Director? What goes into your workday?

    In some ways, being an Executive Director is like being an air traffic controller. There are so many planes in the air at any given time, and they can be hard to keep track of. In the end, you’re trying to make sure they all land back on the ground safely. But it’s hard to do on your own. It’s definitely helpful to have staff you can count on!


    PY: ... Read more ...

  • Skull Talk: One-Room Schoolhouse 46 Miles from the Big Apple

    SchoolhouseStopped at a traffic light in the upscale bedroom community of Bedford, New York, I looked out the car window at what seemed to be a stone storage shed at the edge of a Catholic church’s parking lot. A sign indicated that it was a historic, one-room schoolhouse, and I immediately pulled over.

    As a high school English teacher at a Connecticut high school with over 2,000 students and a ridiculous number of teachers, aides, and administrators, the lonely little cottage, smaller than my entire classroom, appealed to me with its coziness and implied quietness. A sign indicated that it operated between 1829 and 1912, so it can’t have been the first schoolhouse in Bedford, as Massachusetts and Connecticut Puritans insisted on mandatory schooling as soon as there were 100 families ... Read more ...

  • Vampires in Griswold, Connecticut

    There are two documented accounts of suspected vampirism in the community of Griswold, Connecticut. I heard the stories during one of my visits to the Jewett City Cemetery, in Jewett City, Connecticut, where my relatives are buried. The information in the stories came from Griswold Municipal Historian Mary R. Deveau’s unpublished written account as described in her write-up, “Vampires—In Griswold?!?”, for the Town of Griswold.

    The following information is included in the May 1854 newspapers: The Norwich Courier and The Worcester Aegis. Henry Baker Ray and his sons, Lemuel and Elisha, died of tuberculosis in 1845, 1849, and 1851 respectively. When Henry Baker Ray’s third son, Henry Nelson, was stricken, the family wanted to put an end to the many years of illness. They believed their dead relatives were feeding on the living, so they went to the cemetery with some friends and dug up all three bodies. Upon examination ... Read more ...

  • Special Graveyard Call: Who Knows Where?


    Rarely has the uncertainty of death been so succinctly and well-expressed, both in words and image, as in the gravestone of Phineas C. Wright. The large gray granite monument can be found near the northwest corner of Grove Street Cemetery in Putnam, Connecticut. The large graveyard is relatively flat, crowded with monuments in all styles, orderly and neat, and bisected by narrow roads. So much is said by the face of the deeply incised bust, dressed in a formal suit, complete with a watch chain across the chest. His mouth with the slightest frown and the eyes gazing into the distance suggest deep worry. Is it fear, doubt, or skepticism that clouds this face?

    By the size and artistry of the stone, Wright was clearly a man of means. Perhaps he was ... Read more ...

  • Special Graveyard Call: Pulling Weeds

    In July 2008, my 88-year-old mother, two sisters and I took a pilgrimage to Lithuania to discover our family roots. Both sets of my grandparents immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s and settled in New England. My mom and dad were born in this country, and when they met and married the Lithuanian family lineage carried on for another generation.

    We arrived in Panevezys, knowing no one and with little information about what relatives, if any, still lived there. For many years, my mother corresponded with a cousin who’d been a pen friend since childhood. She sent a note to Emilija prior to our departure, telling her of our visit, but had not heard back. We didn’t know if she was still alive, lived at the same address, or had any interest in meeting her American relatives.

    When Emiija’s grandson ... Read more ...

  • Off-Shore Story

    To feel the wind, sea-scented, on my cheek,
    To catch the sound of dusky flapping sail
    And dip of oars, and voices on the gale
    Afar off, calling low, — my name they speak!

    —Celia Thaxter, “Land-Locked”


    The Isles of Shoals, though located only nine miles off the New Hampshire and Maine coast, feels like a faraway land. Colonized in the 1600s, Shoals has a rich history of prosperity and lost fortunes, rogue waves and shipwrecks, ruggedness and bloodshed, and heroism and heartbreak. It is a small place of inviting paths and gorgeous, rocky shores, where serene and soothing views turn harsh with a change in weather. Captain John Smith explored these small islands and pirates later landed. The first settlers were fishermen. Since the mid-1800s, Shoals has been a ... Read more ...

  • Interview with John Cherek, Director of The Catholic Cemeteries

    John Cherek is the Director of The Catholic Cemeteries which maintains five locations in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis in Minnesota: Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights, Calvary Cemetery in St. Paul, Gethsemane Cemetery in New Hope, St. Anthony’s Cemetery in Minneapolis, and St. Mary’s Cemetery in Minneapolis. In April, I visited Resurrection Cemetery as part of my quest to learn from and pay respect to poet John Berryman who is buried in this cemetery. I had the pleasure of meeting John Cherek at this time when he graciously assisted me in locating John Berryman’s grave site though the cemetery office was closed. Cherek has been the Director of The Catholic Cemeteries for twenty-five years and has worked for the Catholic Church in various positions since 1973. He is a Certified Catholic Cemetery Executive and is a leader in local, state, and national organizations related to ... Read more ...

  • Poor Yorick Call for Submissions

    Grave YorickPoor Yorick is looking for photos of unique grave sites, memorials, or tombs to post on our blog site during the month of October. Our goal is to honor the remembrance of those past. Is there a famous person buried in a cemetery near you? Does a certain shapely stone capture your attention? Is there an inscription on a gravestone you want to share with others? Is there a remembrance wall or garden that allows for quietude and prayer? Is there an ancestor’s grave you found dating back hundreds of years?

    Please attach your photo in an email along with a caption at least 200 words that places the image in context and includes its location. We hope to select three photos to publish on our blog throughout the month of October. You do not need ... Read more ...

  • The Harper Lee Conundrum

    When, like me, you’ve taught To Kill a Mockingbird to tenth graders for thirty years, you have a personal stake in Harper Lee’s only “other” novel, Go Set a Watchman, published a few months ago. For three decades, I’ve deconstructed Atticus’s airtight argument that proved Tom Robinson’s innocence beyond anyone’s (but a racist jury’s) doubt. I’ve introduced countless teens to the notion that “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.” Reading and rereading the classic so connected me to the text; I learned and loved something new every time.

    It’s been as difficult for me to separate the truth from the gossip surrounding Watchman, as it has always been to get students to appreciate the full monty of Mockingbird, the book, as compared to To Kill a Mockingbird, ... Read more ...

  • Skull Talk: A Small Mountain Soda Company


    Hosmer Mountain Soda did not start off as a soda company; it started as a fresh spring water delivery company. It was founded in 1912 in Willimantic, Connecticut by W.E. Clark1. The company went through two other owners before the fourth, Arthur J. Potvin, transformed it.

    In 1958, Potvin bought the company and along with his sons, Bill, John, Andy, and Chuck began to broaden their horizons beyond just water. Using dry ice to get CO2 and bags of sugar, they began to handcraft sodas2. The process took time. Potvin would test his recipe until it was just right, recording it on a notecard for further use and experimentation.

    Soon, Potvin faced the choice of continuing to deliver water or switching to soda production instead. He decided on a yet third option, choosing to ... Read more ...

  • WCSU 6 Word Shorts

    These six word stories were written in response to the textile bird clamp, an item from Europe that is at least a hundred years old. Thank you to all of the contributors, most of whom were WCSU MFA students and alumni. 


    *Rest your wings/ at my table.

    -Ben Chase

    *Heavy wings riding on corkscrew dreams.

    -Steph Myers

    *Clamp grips/ Beak clips/ Suspending silk

    -Catherine D’Andrea

    *Europe’s melting Pot: Function married Grace

    -Amie Lipscomb

    *She whispered goodbye to the sparrow.

    –Joe K.

    *CLAMP! Screw to tighten/ never rusts.

    –Melissa Gordon

    *Avian c-clamp/ calculating cuts/ apparel expert!

    –Matt Fiederlein







    -Camellia Mukherjee

    *My songs all drowned in iron.

    -Dan Chamberlin

    *Open, Close, I am not hungry.

    -Nick Manzolillo




    Read more ...

  • Skull Talk: Not Lost or Forgotten

    Moths white as ghosts among these hundred cling/ Small in the porchlight . .    I am one of yours

    —John Berryman, “Sonnet 14”


    On April 10, 2015, I entered Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights, Minnesota in search of the grave site of poet John Berryman. This stop was the last on my journey. I was attending the annual AWP conference in Minneapolis, and the three days prior I had spent time visiting the Elmer J. Anderson Library on the University of Minnesota campus looking through Berryman’s archived papers and visiting the bridge where he had jumped to his death.

    Prior to my Minneapolis trip, I had spent six months obsessively reading Berryman’s Sonnets, 77 Dream Songs, Stephen Crane: A Critical Biography (by Berryman), Berryman’s biography written by John Haffenden, and numerous essays and interviews on the Confessionals. Berryman had been the ... Read more ...

  • Interview with “The Silent Monkeys” Author, Laura Del Col Brown

    PY: What inspired you to write the short story “The Silent Monkeys”?

    LDCB: About 15 years ago, I bought a little monkey statue in a North London charity shop. I didn’t realize at first that it was the “speak no evil” monkey, partly because the other two monkeys weren’t with it and partly because it had its hands clasped in front of its mouth, as if in prayer, rather than clamped over it. I only knew that I found it intriguing. I had kept it on my shelf for over ten years when I happened to attend an exhibition at the Wellcome Collection (a medical museum in London) of amulets that had been collected by the folklorist Edward Lovett. Amid the wealth of good-luck charms, many of which had labels with detailed descriptions of how they had been used, was a single monkey almost identical ... Read more ...

  • Skull Talk: Charles W. Morgan

    It’s rare that history… well… makes history.

    Yet that happened last summer when an esteemed piece of history, the Charles W. Morgan, the world’s last wooden whaleship sailed for the first time in more than ninety years. The oldest commercial vessel still afloat, the Morgan was built and launched in 1841 from the yard of Jethro and Zachariah Hillman in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Once part of an American whaling fleet that numbered more than 2,700 vessels, the Morgan sailed the world’s waters on thirty-seven voyages between 1841 and 1921, most of which lasted three years or more. Once, in the mid-1800s, the ship and its crew narrowly escaped hostile natives on a chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean. The ship also successfully navigated crushing Arctic ice, countless storms, Cape Horn roundings, and, after it finished its whaling career, the Hurricane of 1938. Its ability to ... Read more ...

  • Skull Talk: Labyrinth’s Ancient Practice in Modern Life

    On a recent Saturday I traveled two hours to drop off my son and his friend at their weekend drum corps practice. I took a detour on my return trip to visit Wisdom House, a retreat and conference center located in Litchfield, Connecticut and home to what is believed to be the first outdoor labyrinth in the state.

    Though the origins are not clear, the earliest known labyrinths date back 4,000 years and they have been found all over the world, made in a wide range of sizes from various materials. During the Middle Ages, they were incorporated into the floor designs of European churches. They began to appear again throughout Europe during the 1970s, and by the 1990s, they were being installed throughout the United States. The labyrinth at Wisdom House was built in 1997.

    When I arrived, there were three people at ... Read more ...

  • Museum Spotlight: Danbury Railway Museum


    The Danbury Railway Museum’s mission is to “educate the public as to the history of railroading and to the role of the railroads as part of our local and national heritage, and to engage in any and all activities convenient to said purposes.” This museum is filled with character and fun for people of all ages. It is located in downtown Danbury, Connecticut, and is a great place to bring your family to learn and experience the history of trains and the railroad. Housed in an historic train station, the Danbury Railway Museum bridges the distance between the present and the past.

    Danbury Railway Museum’s collection focuses on the New Haven Railroad, for which the Danbury station was built in 1903, as well as other railroads from around the United States. Originally the station included a railyard facility, ... Read more ...

  • Family History Series: Hell on Earth

    Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon your reason and your judgment wage war against your passion and your appetite.

    —Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

    Dwight never mentioned keeping a war diary. My great-aunt Helen, his wife, found it in a locked desk drawer after he passed away.

    It’s a violent telling. Dwight was captured by the Japanese from his base on the island of Corregidor in the Philippines during World War II. Maybe all that blood was too much for his war-burdened mind. Perhaps burying the journal in that drawer was the sanest thing he could do. I often wonder if he ever turned to it alone.

    The diary and a 1968 hardbound copy (the year I was born) of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet are all I have of Dwight’s—pages of pain and grief and hope, along with my ... Read more ...

  • A Q&A with Author Phillip Aijian

    PY: I understand you were visiting the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain, when you came across the painting “St. Dominic de Guzman and the Albigensians.” Can you talk about the experience you had with this painting which eventually led to your poem “Whose Mouth is Fire”?

    PA: I have a habit of writing poems in response to paintings—I’ve written several in response to trips to The Getty Musuem and LACMA, which are both in Los Angeles, California where I live. I love ekphrasis—it’s a great way of getting around writer’s block as someone else has done most of the heavy lifting for you. Whenever I go to a museum, I always take a little notebook and pen so I can write when something catches my eye. There’s really no question of “if” at this point. It’s kind of a discipline I try to practice.

    I was in the Prado and I’d been ... Read more ...

  • AWP 2015 6 Word Shorts

    Thank you to everyone who stopped by the Poor Yorick table at the AWP 2015 Bookfair in Minneapolis. Thank you also to those of you who took the time to view our 1932 Vogue magazine and write a 6 word short. Here are some of the shorts. Apologies if I mispelled names or if I didn’t give someone credit—I had trouble reading some of the writing! Contact me if I need to make updates at Thanks for your support of Poor Yorick!


    *Eyes slitted & dark—shoulders skeptical.

    -Audrey Gidman

    *Blood red lipstick on a cat


    *Baby jennifer—burnt face free spirt dolly.


    *Pleasant action, pharmaceutical power: SECURITY.

    -Brooke Wonders

    *Found life at 50! Died at 49!


    *Misunderstood elbows are better off ... Read more ...

  • Family History Series: Reading Between the Lines of a 1907 Excelsior Diary

    to breathe…?

    —Mary Clearman Blew Bone Deep in Landscape


    Cora Paul’s 1907 Excelsior Diary arrived in my mailbox nearly a century after it was penned. My mother had rescued it from my grandmother’s barn along with other artifacts, which had rested undisturbed in a dusty old trunk all those years. The author was the fourteen-year-old daughter of a Central Montana rancher and my paternal ... Read more ...

  • Skull Talk: Wedding Veils Uncovered

    JeannetteSTAs a hippy Boomer mother of a Millennial bride-to-be, I have rediscovered the obscure, yet expensive, costs associated with apparently mandatory wedding attire such as the bridal veil. Unbeknownst to me, over the past thirty-five years, the veil has become, or has been reinstated as, THE bridal must-have fashion statement. My daughter’s insistence that she must have an $800 item made of netting that she would wear for thirty minutes of one day then forget about in some box in my attic caused me to research its history.

    According to Cambridge historian, Karen K. Hersch, Roman brides wore bright yellow and orange veils. My research didn’t indicate the symbolism of these colors, but certainly they did not indicate modesty. American women through the nineteenth century didn’t even wear white to their weddings; they wore their best dresses ... Read more ...

  • Family History Series: Tablets

    ShinYuPai_FamSeriesPicThe wooden ancestor tablet presiding over my fourth uncle’s ancestral altar tells the complete history of my father’s family—a history that I didn’t discover until my mid-twenties.

    Early in my life, my father wanted to plant the seed of imagination and poetic lineage in my mind. On the eve of my departure for a graduate school program in creative writing, he spun an elaborate and fantastic story of our ancestral connection to the T’ang Dynasty poet Pai Chü-i who penned “A Song of Never-ending Sorrow.” My father and his generation of school kids memorized long passages from this epic poem. On a visit to China in the late 90s, my father made a point of visiting the grave of the concubine, Yang Kuei-Fei, whose tragic tale is immortalized through the poet’s song. My connection ... Read more ...

  • Skull Talk: Bridges Among Death, Time, and Art

    Last week, when I’d had it up to here with working on my graduate thesis, I wandered off down the Internet’s rabbit trails and ended up reading about England’s bog bodies. Gross, I know. Apparently Northern Europe is littered with peat bogs which over thousands of years have accumulated bodies, some by accident, many put there on purpose. What people didn’t know when some of those first bodies went into the peat, was that the high acidity and low temperature and oxygen content served to preserve the bodies in unique ways, eating away bone but protecting organic material like hair, organs, and even ingested food. Though it’s rare to find a fully intact body, researchers have been able to learn a great deal about early mankind through chemical and genetic testing of these uniquely preserved remains.

    To me, these stories aren’t macabre or disgusting despite photos ... Read more ...

  • Special Call for Submissions: April 3, 2015 – June 19, 2015

    Poor Yorick: A Journal of Rediscovered Objects in collaboration with our partner, the Danbury Railway Museum, is spotlighting a caboose from the Museum’s collection. How does this object inspire you? Please submit your responses to us. We accept all forms of literary genres and electronically reproducible visual or audio media. The staff of Poor Yorick and the Danbury of Railway Museum will be choosing up to three entries to be published in Poor Yorick. Please follow the procedure for submitting as shown on our Submit page. Please begin the title of your submission with “Caboose.” We look forward to seeing what kind of inspiration this caboose evokes!

        Melissa Gordon Editor-in-Chief

    Read more ...
  • Interview with Vincent P. Kmetz author of The Ghost of Westchester Northern



    PY: You have written a generous historical document about an artifact that is “under the nose” of golfers at Brae Burn Country Club every day. How did the ruins of the Westchester Northern catch your attention?

    VK: I’ve been associated with Brae Burn since 1983, which dovetailed with the first years of my affinity for golf. As a teenager, my apprehension of this stillborn railroad was entirely based on the arcane charm that the remnants inspired.

    Many years removed from Brae Burn (in the late 1990s), I began to invest myself in the realm of golf course architecture with greater and greater zeal. As that knowledge grew, I became aware of how unique and singular (and little known) the incorporation of such historical features are in the practice of golf architecture. Today, newer courses are hoping for ... Read more ...

  • Peter Poskas’s Painting “Victorian in Winter” as an Inspiration

    Poor Yorick and our museum partner, the Mattatuck Museum, are proud to announce the winner of our first Special Call for Submissions. We received poems, short stories, digital videos, and essays. “Victorian in Winter,” a poem by Martin Willitts, Jr., was chosen to accompany the image “Victorian in Winter,” a painting by Peter Poskas. Poskas, born in 1939, “has been painting New England for more than three decades,” incorporating “thoughtful studies of light and perspective reflect the subtle nuances of seasonal change”1. His paintings allow for beauty and nostalgia in the landscapes he observes and captures with his brush. The painting is part of the Mattatuck Museum’s collection.

    Please visit Poor Yorick Friday, March 11, to read the poem.

    Congratulations, Martin Willitts, Jr.!



    1. “Artists.” Haynes Galleries. Haynes Galleries, 2014. Web 11 Feb. 2015.



    Hannah Albee
    Read more ...

  • Interview with Brett Foster on his poem “On Leonardo’s ‘Figures To Represent Labor'”

    A Q&A by Melissa Gordon

    PY: Your poem “On Leonardo’s ‘Figures To Represent Labor'” was inspired by the drawing “Figures To Represent Labor” by Leonardo Da Vinci. This drawing is part of the Royal Trust Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Did you see this drawing in person? Can you talk about your experience and how it inspired you to write your poem?

    BF: Alas, no, I have never had the chance to see the original Leonardo sketch in person! Though I would love to. A few years ago I had the chance to write an essay on Bronzino, when many of his drawings were featured in a Met exhibit. They, too, were dazzling. I think I likely first encountered Leonardo’s memorable gallery of human action in one of those over-large coffee table books, “The Complete Leonardo,” or some such over-selling title. I ... Read more ...

  • Flashes of Past: The Politics of Writing a Political Novel

    Billy Lee Brammer’s The Gay Place, a collection of three related political novels, received national acclaim when it was published in 1961. Each novel follows a very Lyndon-Johnson-like Governor Arthur Fenstemaker who directs the fate of both his loved ones and the state of Texas. This was Brammer’s first and only published book.

    But it’s Al Reinert’s introduction to the 1978 Texas Monthly Press edition that spurs as much intrigue as the novels themselves.

    Updating the reader on Brammer’s tragic fall since the first publication, Reinert examines the writer’s early relationship with Lyndon B. Johnson as the state senator’s press writer and friend. Reinart summarizes, “Billy’s oldest friends recall how he idolized Johnson… toted, and fretted and apologized for him.”

    On this pedestal, Johnson became Brammer’s inspiration for the character Fenstemaker. In Reinart’s words, “The splendid creation named Arthur Fenstemaker is Billy and Johnson ... Read more ...

  • Historical Books and Their Personal Histories


    In a box of old textbooks and odd paperbacks, this unusual book, The American Ship-Master’s Guide: Seaman’s Manual useful to merchants, ship-masters, supercargoes, mariners, and merchant’s clerks, was found in New London, Connecticut in the 1970s. Since that time, the book has been part of my family collection. I’m fortunate to live among a rich historical backdrop of the colonial and revolutionary times in New England. Old books come and go from attics, basements, used bookstores, and relatives. This particular volume is a Ship Master’s reference book. Perhaps as a reference book it is common. But the book’s inscriptions and condition make it valuable to the history of New London.

    Ron_CoverThe book is covered in some kind of skin or cloth ... Read more ...

  • Skull Talk: Fort Griswold, Groton, Connecticut

    Fort Griswold seen from the bottom of the Cover Wall

    In 1781, George Washington was on the march toward Virginia, and the British devised a plan to draw him back to New England. General Sir Henry Clinton, the commander of the British forces, ordered General Benedict Arnold to sail around Long Island and up the Thames River in Connecticut. The plan: burn and sack New London and Groton, Connecticut taking them for their own usage, and specifically seizing Fort Griswold. They would then continue on up the river to sack Norwich, Connecticut.

    On September 5, 1781, the British fleet of thirty-two ships were thirty miles west of New London, preparing to attack1. They planned a night siege of the two towns, but crosswinds delayed their arrival. The fleet arrived around 3:00 a.m. and was spotted by ... Read more ...

  • Interview with Photographer Holly Gordon on the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an

    A Q&A by Melissa Gordon

    PY: We understand you encountered an army of terracotta warriors in China! They were buried with Qin Shi Huang Di, the First Emperor of Qin in 210 BCE and unearthed in the 1970s. We have published a series of photographs you took of these warriors in the Lintong District, Xi’an, Shaanxi province. When did you travel there?

    HG: In 2007 I set off to China to see the banks of the Yangtze River before they were washed off the face of the earth. I had no idea I would come face-to-face with such magnitude. The terracotta warriors of Xi’an are one of the most significant archaeological finds of the twentieth century.

    PY: What was it like seeing this ancient army from 210 BCE? 

    HG: The enormity…the complexity…it still boggles my mind to know that more than 8,000 soldiers each with individual ... Read more ...

  • Project Booklust Part Five: The Book Barn

    BookBarn2_RSWhile searching for a subject for Part 5 of Project Booklust, I thought I’d expand from the rare and antique bookselling market and look at independent booksellers at large. So I went big. The Book Barn in Niantic, Conn., is a sprawling megaplex of used books. The store fills a barn and several outbuildings at their main location, and there are locations in Downtown and Midtown Niantic, as well as a recent addition—Store Four. Distributed among the four stores are more than 500,000 titles that cover just about every possible genre—in detail.

    As a used book powerhouse, the scale of The Book Barn could easily be a corporate endeavor. But it’s not. Owner Randi White and his wife left the pizza business some twenty-five years ago to sell books in the basement of what ... Read more ...

  • Project Booklust Part Four: John Kehoe Books

    We consume books for different reasons—escape, fulfillment, distraction, etc. Much like consumers, booksellers enter the trade for various reasons or passions. In doing Project Booklust, I’ve discovered this prominent trend in the rare book community. At the Boston Book Fair the level of demographic diversity of the attendees surprised me. Furthermore, each seller I’ve visited has shared a story of pre-bookselling experiences that seem far afield from their current trades. John Kehoe, of John Kehoe Books in Stamford, Connecticut, has just such a story.

    Kehoe entered bookselling from the commercial construction trades. He worked for a long time as the second operator on a large crane. On breaks the primary operator would lower the crane’s boom and Kehoe would scramble the length of it, checking and greasing fittings and joints. When the primary operator returned, he’d tell Kehoe to beat it, not wanting to reveal any ... Read more ...

  • Project Booklust Part Three: Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair


    When I decided to attend the 2014 Boston Book Fair in November, I imagined the trip would be something of a capstone experience. I figured it would pull together the things I’d learned from my visits to the John Bale Book Co. and Johnnycake Books. I didn’t expect to be stunned upon entrance. I was stuck staring at the rows of shining display cases while PY’s editor, Melissa Gordon, and one of our fellow MFAers, henceforth known only as Dr. Joe, looked to me for direction.

    Booklust3_1I had no real plan other than wanting to check out a couple items. One was a bronze Gonzo sword complete with Hunter S. Thompson’s trademark double-thumbed fist for a pommel.

    The other was a signed ... Read more ...

  • A Q&A with Author Catherine Sasanov

    PY: What inspired you to submit to Poor Yorick?

    CS: A number of things attracted me to Poor Yorick: its mission “to remind us of pasts we cannot afford to forget;” that it is a joint effort between WCSU’s MFA program and history department; and that it has museum partners. Since my poem “Markd Y” is so infused with, infected by, the archive, finding a home for a section of the work in Poor Yorick seemed ideal.

    That Poor Yorick wants to pair up creative work with the image/sound it grew out of also interested me. In my case, that item is a bill of lading where I first found evidence of an unnamed woman’s existence, she being included as cargo, not passenger.


    PY: “Markd Y,” as a whole is a larger manuscript working with archival sources.  Can you ... Read more ...

  • Flashes of Past: Memories, Can’t Trust ’em

    Imagine a life filled with drugs, alcohol, petty crimes, casual sex, and little fear of consequences. It would be a life akin to that lived by the narrator (sometimes named Fuckhead) of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son (1992). That lifestyle has drawbacks, among them a memory like a bingo blower, popping balls of experience for others to arrange into something coherent. Bingo! Johnson uses his narrator’s disjointed memory to share the pain and confusion beneath the party life addictions.

    The narrator is incapable of recalling the whole story. His self-interrupting storytelling exposes the mental damage inflicted by his debauched lifestyle. He fumbles through a collection of images.

    A salesman who shared his liquor and steered while sleeping…A Cherokee filled with bourbon…A VW no more than a bubble of hashish fumes, captained by a college student…And a family who headonned and killed forever a man driving west ... Read more ...

  • Skull Talk: A Bite of History

    It’s rare that you get a chance to bite into history, but the bialys at Kossar’s Bialys in New York City allow you to do just that. In a way each Jewish-flatbread that comes out of Kossar’s bialy oven (which has burned almost continuously for the past 60 years) is a historic artifact providing a link to a world that in many ways no longer exists.

    Just baked, not baked and boiled like a bagel, the bialy was the regional bread of Bialystok, Poland, a city which prior to World War II was a predominantly Jewish city. Around the turn of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century bialy bakers from Bialystok began immigrating to the U.S. bringing their bread to cities like New York and Chicago. In 1936 Kossar’s opened in lower Manhattan. At that time bialy making was a thriving industry ... Read more ...

  • An Intersection of Art and Science: Author Rebecca Reynolds Describes her Investigation of The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary

    Not much tugs at the imagination more than objects, places, or living organisms with hybrid qualities. Author Rebecca Reynolds followed her muse to discover more about the history and mythology surrounding the plant aptly named: The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary. In the following interview she elaborates on her own fascination with this curiosity that has a hybrid appearance of both vegetable and animal. A museum educator and graduate student in museum studies, Rebecca Reynolds likes to think about another type of hybrid as well: “…what happens when words and objects come together, particularly with museum labels.”


    PY: How did you first hear about the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary? What drew you to it?

    RR:I first came across it by chance on a visit to the Garden Museum in London. I suppose it first attracted me because it’s unusual within the museum—for a start, ... Read more ...

  • Project Booklust Part Two: Johnnycake Books—Salisbury, Connecticut


    Rare booksellers have stories—things that seem to define them aside from the tales in the books they sell. For the John Bale Book Company in part one of the Project Booklust series it was how Abraham Lincoln’s hair found its way into the shop. In the case of Johnnycake Books in Salisbury, Connecticut, it’s something even more personal—boxer shorts. Not just any old trunks, but handcrafted boxers embroidered with E O’N, which once graced the posterior of Nobel Prize winner Eugene O’Neill.

    Johnnycake owner, Dan Dwyer scored this piece of literary ephemera after O’Neill’s family home in Marblehead, Massachusetts, went up for sale.DSC02805 DSC02804 However, the boxers alone don’t define Dwyer’s work as a ... Read more ...

  • Peter Ciccariello talks about the inspiration behind his “Poor Yorick” images.

    Inspired by the line “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him,” and the question, “Whose (skull) was it?”, I imagined that Yorick’s skeleton had a life of its own and a future. I even imagined him climbing out of his grave!  My creative process usually starts with scanned objects and photographs gleaned from walks throughout northeastern Connecticut and New England. After collaging, combining, and altering those images, a ”texture” is developed to wrap around 3-D models in a virtual space. The models can be modified and their position coordinates changed almost infinitely.





    Peter Ciccariello 

    About the Artist

    Peter Ciccariello lives and creates on the edge of a forest in northeastern Connecticut. He is astounded by the way the world changes and ... Read more ...

  • Interview: Assembling the World at Hand

    Poor Yorick’s Brian Lance talked with Charles Bechtel—sculptor, writer, teacher—about assembling scenes from the reclaimed pieces of everyday life.


    PY: How did you discover Poor Yorick and what drove your decision to submit your work to us?

    CB: I discovered Poor Yorick through a Facebook friend whose post informed me of a call for submissions of artwork made from found or repurposed articles. I had just started my Assemblages, having completed maybe nine or so, and I felt they might serve the mission of the publication and my desire to do something beyond the manufacturing of them.


    PY: We are lucky enough to have six of your sculptures, or assemblages, published in our journal. Who has influenced your creative process in relation to your sculptures?

    CB: As far as the first six go, the objects themselves influenced ... Read more ...

  • Oldest Book Contest Winner: Swiss Manuscript (1636)

    Angie Cosey, our Oldest Book Contest winner, talks about her Swiss manuscript from 1636.

    003In the summer of 2012 I found myself wandering solo through Switzerland. I’d dined on fondue in Zurich, gone paragliding in the Alps, visited the bears in Berne, hiked with the mountain goats in Creux-du-Van, picked wild raspberries from the bank of the Rhine in Vaduz, and finally arrived in Geneva at the end of my journey. I spent one quiet afternoon lunching at the Place-du-Bourg-de-Four in the center of the old city.

    When I finished lunch I meandered down the Grand’Rue where I stumbled upon the oh-so-picturesque La Librairie Ancienne shop of Alexandre Illi. It was probably the most beautiful bookshop I’d seen, inside and out. Prints and more commonplace books were displayed outside, luring passersby with hints of more ... Read more ...

  • Skull Talk: A Structure of Memories

    photo 5This magnificent building overlooking the Hudson River in Peekskill, New York, was built by the prolific architect Ralph Adams Cram in 1911. For most of the twentieth century it was the home of St. Mary’s School, an Episcopal girl’s boarding and day school. Much of the school’s leadership and instruction came from the Convent of the Sisters of St. Mary, located on the same property, Mount Saint Gabriel. In the early 1970’s, due to dwindling enrollment numbers, the school decided to open its doors to boys and changed its name to St. Mary’s and St. John’s School. But still caught under an economic recession and inflation, maintenance costs became unsustainable for a non-profit organization. In 1976 the school closed its doors for good. The building was auctioned off to a condominium developer. Today, it operates ... Read more ...

  • Flashes of Past: Let Your Imagination Be Your Guide

    KarenReviewPicAs I wait for the final Hobbit film to transport me back to Middle-Earth I’ve been thinking about the books that first sparked my love of fantasy. Certainly Tolkien’s works played their part, along with C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and Norman Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. But the standout book in the group is too little known and appreciated: The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, published in 1974 by Harper & Row. Written by actress Dame Julie Andrews under her married name Edwards, the story is as inventive and gripping as any Hobbit’s journey.

    Through a Halloween dare, three siblings meet a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who has locked himself away to search for the Whangdoodle—a wise and fantastical creature who once lived among humans. Frightened by society’s turn away from imagination and ... Read more ...

  • Special Call for Submissions: November 3, 2014 – January 3, 2015

    Poor Yorick: A Journal of Rediscovered Objects in collaboration with our partner, the Mattatuck Museum, is spotlighting a painting from the Mattatuck’s collection. How does this painting inspire you? Please submit your responses to us. We accept all forms of literary genres and electronically reproducible visual or audio media.

    Read more ...
  • Skull Talk: Día de los Muertos

    The recent harvest contains seeds of spring but the fields lie fallow. The barrier between life and death feels
    transparent, and even permeable.


    Skulls are part of the scary images seen in North America on Halloween where traditions reflect our fear of the dark, goblins, ghosts, and death. But in Mexico, skulls are used as a design motif throughout the festival of “Day of the Dead” where they appear bright, colorful, and often comic.

    “Día de los Muertos” is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. The spirits of loved ones are invited to return for the occasion and are enticed with the aromas of the foods they enjoyed most on earth. “Pan de muertos,” a sweet bread, is baked for the occasion and gifts of sugar skulls are presented to recipients both ... Read more ...

  • Interview: Laura Sommers, Author of “The Pink Vase”


    PY: What inspired you to submit your essay, “The Pink Vase,” to Poor Yorick?

    LS: When I saw your call for submissions, I thought my essay about deliberately “losing” something I had so diligently kept tabs on all these years would offer an interesting twist on the theme.


    PY: In your essay, you speak of burying the actual pink vase. Though it is still buried, you felt the need to bring it back into the light. Was the story something you’ve been mulling over for a while?

    LS: You could say I mulled over the story since I came into possession of the vase. I brought the pink vase back to life in my essay, in part because that’s what burying it represented for me—a decision to bury the guilt about my mother’s missed opportunities, and to bring my own writing fully into ... Read more ...

  • Skull Talk: The Brass City

    Like many cities in Connecticut, Waterbury has a rich history that can be attributed to the industry which helped it flourish. Although the thriving industry of yesteryear has dwindled, the nickname of the city still remains. The history of Waterbury is quite charming.

    Waterbury is known as the Brass City. This nickname comes from the incredibly successful brass industry which lasted from the mid eighteen century to the early twentieth century. At one time, Waterbury was the leading producer of brass in the world. I find brass buttons for military uniforms to be the most fascinating. Three companies produced the brass in Waterbury: Scovill Manufacturing, American Brass (later Anaconda-American Brass, 1922), and Chase Brass & Copper Company. In the 1950s, after World War II, the brass industry began to decline. Brass items were replaced by plastic, zinc, and aluminum. Today, ... Read more ...

  • Flashes of Past: Triggering Biology of the Brain

    I am passionate about psychology and specifically Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). My career as a researcher has focused on ways to look at the patterns substance users develop while I work to help people break these patterns and create healthier ones. Lately, I have wondered about consciousness and what the biology of our brain and the arousal of emotion does to consciousness and cognitive processing.

    Antonio Damasio explores the role of biology and the mind in his book The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness (1999). This book explores a range of human neural processes and mental patterns that form consciousness and construct a person’s idea of self. Damasio speaks in a mainly conversational tone as he weaves in medical research, personal thoughts, scientific theories, and case studies that look at the behaviors of those with healthy and damaged ... Read more ...

  • Skull Talk: The Birth of Las Vegas at the Old Mormon Fort

    Guard shackDo you know what the name “Las Vegas” means? It’s Spanish for the meadows—not normally what comes to mind when you think of this part of the Mojave. Las Vegas sits in a bowl-shaped valley surrounded by mountains. At the center of the bowl, the bottom of the valley, is The Strip.

    But long before The Strip, the mob, and the rat pack, people came to the Vegas valley for another reasonwater. Deep artesian wells spouted up into a small stream, drawing Native American tribes as well as explorers mapping the Spanish Trail from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. These first explorers gave the area its name in 1829.

    In the 1850s Brigham Young sent Mormon missionaries west and the Vegas valley seemed a natural waypoint. The missionaries constructed a small adobe fort to ... Read more ...

  • Poor Yorick’s Inception: Marilyn Nelson on Fortune’s Bones

    A Q& A by Melissa Gordon

    Wow, there are so many corners in what we call “local history!” Corners worth exploring; corners in which is hidden a great deal of wisdom.

             —Marilyn Nelson on Poor Yorick

    Marilyn Nelson is a current Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and the 2012 recipient of the Robert Frost Medal. Nelson founded the Soul Mountain Retreat in East Haddam, Connecticut, where she served as Director for ten years. Author of numerous books, Nelson serves on the Advisory Board for Poor Yorick. In fact, her book Fortunes Bones, which she wrote while serving as the Poet Laureate of Connecticut, was the inspiration for the journal.

    Fortune’s Bones brings to light the story of a slave who lived in Connecticut in the 1700s. Fortune was enslaved by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Preserved Porter, and upon ... Read more ...

  • We Launch Next Week!

    The staff of Poor Yorick: A Journal of Rediscovered Objects is proud to announce our launch on October 15! The premiere of the journal will include 12 pieces, including: a poem about a real-life hoax so bold even P.T. Barnum was jealous; an essay about the ancient legends surrounding a mystical beast so ridiculous no fiction writer would make it up; two poems that explore the fascination with both the literal and figurative probing of what lies beneath the skin; a book that is literally a meteorite; a digital video that tells the story about the generational impact of immigration; and textural compositions made from objects such as skulls, cigar bands, eggshells, and grapefruit tree twigs.

    When we first started work on the journal over a year ago, we looked at the hundreds of literary journals and realized Poor Yorick had the ability to make a ... Read more ...

  • Where is Poor Yorick?

    We want to see where Poor Yorick can travel! We will post Poor Yorick in the variety of locations on Instagram. Please cut out a Poor Yorick skull with whereispooryoricka little handle, and when you come across objects or locations of historical and cultural significance, snap a picture and email to:

    You can Follow @pooryorickjournal on Instagram, and view the profile at

    THANK YOU for your help!

     Where is Poor Yorick_Blog

    Read more ...
  • Skull Talk: From Pants to Paper the Old Way

    Last month, I heard about a papermaking demonstration hosted by Yale’s Beinecke Library. Papermaking seemed like the perfect lost art for PY to check out. Paper, after all, is the unsung cornerstone of most things literary and artistic. That the demonstrators would use historic techniques and human powered machines sweetened the deal and fit nicely as a supplement to my Project Book Lust series.


    I met Margaret Mahan and Drew Matott of the Peace Paper Project outside on the Beinecke Plaza. They’d set up a long table with their supplies and samples, mysterious things of some bygone era. Moulds, deckles, hinged wooden boxes, stacks of coarse paper flecked with a spectrum of cloth bits. A group of Beinecke staff and local papermakers gathered at the table and talked shop.

    Read more ...

  • Flashes of the Past: Bukowski and his Closeted Intellectual

    Charles Bukowski’s Post Office (1971) chronicles Hank Chinaski’s misadventures as a postal worker and the poverty, alcoholism, and bureaucracy that fray his middle years. Sure, it’s a book about a hard-luck drunk written in spartan chapters, a book revered by hipsters. But from the closet of Bukowski’s hardboiled antihero peeks Chinaski’s alter ego: an intellectual, compassionate, and self-aware voice. Bukowski outs Chinaski (and perhaps himself as well) in concise prose, hefting social commentary and metaphors.

    The whiskey and beer ran out of me, fountained from the armpits, and I drove along with this load on my back like a cross, pulling out magazines, delivering thousands of letters, staggering, welded to the side of the sun.

    The alter ego seizes opportunities, hiding in plain sight wherever possible, including landscapes. It reveals Chinaski’s sentimentality and penchant for romanticizing, shrouding life’s decay in the subtext of the setting.

    Read more ...

  • Skull Talk: Lebanon Town Green

    IMG_0280Town greens are a piece of history that lie in many European and colonial American towns. Some are forgotten stretches of grass you may pass on your way to work. The green in Lebanon, CT is one such place. It is steeped in rich, deep history.

    The Lebanon green is surrounded by historical houses and buildings including former Governor Jonathan Trumbull’s house, the Jonathan Trumbull Jr. house, the William Williams house–which is a private residence–the Dr. William Beaumont house, the Jonathan Trumbull War Office, and the First Congregational Church. All of these buildings stand alongside the mile long green, a place where French general Rochambeau marched through on the way to Yorktown.

    The French stationed Armand Louis de Gontaut’s Legion with about 220 soldiers on the Lebanon ... Read more ...

  • Oldest Book Contest!

    The Poor Yorick staff has been searching through their bookshelves trying to find their oldest books. We started a little competition among our staff which led to a contest for our readers. We want to see your oldest book. Search your shelves and snap a photo. Send your photo to Include the title, author, and copyright date. We’ll be sharing photos on our blog and social media sites. The Oldest Book Contest will run from 9/22-10/22, and we will announce the winner on the blog the week of 10/27. The winner will receive a Poor Yorick T-shirt and magnet and a chance to blog about how they got the book.


    Thank you and good luck!

    Poor Yorick Staff


    Read more ...
  • Skull Talk: The Idle Hitching Post

    IMG_0718Cars whiz by going fifty to sixty miles per hour down High Ridge Road in North Stamford. The road serves as a main conduit for working people living in exclusive northern neighborhoods to get to their corporate jobs in Stamford or to catch a train into New York City.

    What was originally a dirt path for farmers to cart their goods to the Stamford market that once huddled close to the Long Island Sound, High Ridge is now a racecourse. Hidden along the side of an old stone wall on this road is a symbol of the past. A rusting hitching post for horses sits quietly unnoticed by everyone, except maybe for my dog and I taking our pre-rush Sunday walk.

    It is only on early Sundays that I can imagine horses standing and waiting for ... Read more ...

  • Welcome to Project Book Lust!

    When my aunt moved from Boston to San Diego this spring, she dropped off a trunk of old books on my porch. Great, I thought. More stuff to fill my 1,000-sqft house, where storage space is already at a premium. But I had some options. I could unload them—either donate them somewhere, or place them curbside. I could keep them—find a closet to shove them in, or learn something about this collection of books dating back to the mid-1800s and write about them. I chose to keep them, store them in my car trunk, lug them around on a tour of independent/rare/antique booksellers to get a better understanding of the industry as well as the trunk’s contents. And that is how Project Book Lust was born.


    Read more ...

  • Skull Talk: Connecticut’s Stone Walls

    CTStoneWalls_1I grew up in a rural town in eastern Connecticut. One of the fascinating parts of the rural landscape are the miles and miles of old stone walls. As an adult, I moved to a suburban town in Connecticut where most of the stone walls are recent additions and part of landscaping projects. Perhaps that’s when and why I noticed the history and culture of the stone walls I had grown up with.

    The stone walls where I grew up had more than an aesthetic purpose. In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries settlers were clearing the land in order to build houses and prepare farmland. The stone walls you see today are products of human infiltration onto and into the land. As people worked the land they found more and more of these rocks, and needing ... Read more ...

  • Flashes of the Past: Fragile Control of the Mind


    WLU_Shenandoah_Vol_3_No_3_1952_TitlePage WLU_Shenandoah_Vol_3_No_3_1952_FaulknerOnHemingwayPoor Yorick is launching a book review section called “Flashes of the Past” in an effort to find literature, art, and material culture lost to time. The inspiration for this came from Faulkner’s review of The Old Man and the Sea in the third issue of Shenandoah. Like many great works, Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, published in 1952, has over the years slipped through the cracks as contemporary literature floods the masses. We want to find books of literary and cultural significance and bring them into the spotlight using the style Faulkner used in his review of The Old Man and the Sea.

    We aim to encapsulate books in less than 350 words and deliver a ... Read more ...

  • Meet Poor Yorick’s Museum Partners!

    Our mission is to identify and encourage writing and other artistic works inspired by lost objects and images of material culture. What better way to locate these rousing artifacts and the resulting creative productions than to work with the organizations dedicated to their preservation: museums and historical societies! The following five institutions have committed to working with us to accomplish our objectives, and we are proud to call them partners.

    The Barnum Museum

    Dedicated to the life of P.T. Barnum, the famous founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, The Barnum Museum is home to collections of unique and eclectic artifacts which celebrate the life of the founder and the history of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Sadly, on June 25th 2010 the historic museum building was devastated by an F1 tornado, prompting the close of the ... Read more ...

  • Welcome!



    Welcome to the launch of Poor Yorick’s blog!

    We will supplement the content of the journal here with occasional news and several features. Thursdays will feature Flashes of the Past book reviews, where staff and contributors will review potentially overlooked books published prior to 2000. Friday will feature Skull Talk, which will spotlight images of objects and places staff have visited or stumbled upon and want to bring back into the light. Additionally, the blog will publish interviews with authors and artists and post news about museum partnerships and local events of literary and historical interest.

    The mission of Poor Yorick is to bring back into light the skeletons hidden in our cultural closets.  We think our unique focus on rediscovery of the past will be valuable as we ... Read more ...

  • Museum Spotlight: The Mattatuck Museum


    What the Mattatuck Brings to Light

    Poor Yorick proudly introduces the Mattatuck Museum as one of our partners. The museum is a cultural and historical gem in the heart of downtown Waterbury, Connecticut. The mission of the Mattatuck Museum is to be “a center of art and history, a gathering place that nurtures creativity and learning through transformative experiences to encourage a deeper understanding of ourselves and our heritage.” In 1877, the museum began as the Mattatuck Historical Society and expanded its mission in the 1960s to include more broadly the work of Connecticut artists. The museum’s regional focus includes present-day Waterbury and ten surrounding towns known historically as “Mattatuck.”

    The Mattatuck Museum is home to a wide variety of collections and exhibits that touch on local history: the exhibit of Fortune’s Bones, which brings ... Read more ...