Text Questing in Advanced Poetry

Ask a Librarian,” an online chat, is one of several resources available from K-State Libraries.

We have rad libraries and librarians.

In my ENGL 663 “Advanced Poetry” class this semester, all the books we are reading interact with another text in some way. One features epigraphs from original versions of fairy tales, one uses historical medical records, and one uses the New York Times science column to create poems.

Students this semester also need to write a series or poetic sequence that engages with another original document for research, and, thankfully, there’s no shortage of incredible sources on campus.

As a class we engaged in “Text Quest” during the second week of class in search of both documents and library resources that are tucked away in numerous buildings, some even close to Hale!

Text Quest, Day 1

On the first day of our Text Quest, we began at Weigel Library. The amazing Architecture Librarian, Maxine Ganske, showed my class books about a variety of topics, from tree houses to gargoyles to stairs. The library has everything from product design and buildings to environmental concerns, and even issues of Orion that might interest creative writers. Students got out colored pencils and pens and sketched ideas and wrote lines for potential future poems.

Paul Weigel Library of Architecture, Planning, & Design

After Weigel, we headed to Bluemont Hall, which houses K-State’s Special Collections while Hale recovers. Librarians Jane Schille and David Allen, as well as their amazing student workers, showed us several volumes of the beautiful St. John’s Bible and educated us on the history and process of the reproduction. The illuminations were stunning, and we watched the art design change from Psalms to Revelations. I can’t believe it has taken me almost five years at K-State before I saw these amazing volumes.

Viewing the St. John’s Bible

Text Quest, Day 2 

We began Day 2 in Cardwell Hall to visit the Math / Physics Library, where all the current periodicals now are! It was well-lit and quiet (until we got there), and we roamed the stacks looking for books on the origins of the universe and astronomy. We also got to hear more about librarian Felisa Osburn’s grandfather who was both a biologist and poet.

The Math / Physics Library

After Cardwell, we quested to the Chapman Center for Rural Studies housed in Leasure Hall. Bonnie Lynn-Sherow and Maggie Cody had helpfully already laid out four stations to show history and rural studies in Kansas, from old diaries to maps to logs of infections diseases that once beset Kansans, as well as my favorite thing: a collection of custard cups.  Students got to literally be hands-on during this visit while they wrote more lines and drafted more ideas for their future projects.

The Chapman Center for Rural Studies

Although it will be many weeks before I see the poems that come from the inspiration of our Text Quest across campus, I enjoyed peeking at some of the sketches and lines students have already created from the experience. I appreciate all the work that our librarians — faculty, staff, and students workers — are still doing across campus. While Hale is nursed back to health with engineers and architects, we still have source documents to work from while we create poems that engage different disciplines and level up our knowledge of design, history, astronomy, and the rarest books on campus.

Traci Brimhall, Associate Professor


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s