posted on: Thursday April 4, 2019
by Grace Whitman ’22 A&E Staff
On March 27, the American Studies and Development of Western Civilization departments welcomed the successful poet, prose writer, and visual artist, Mary-Kim Arnold. Arnold’s work has been featured in several literary and art journals, including Tin House, The Georgia Review, Hyperallergic, and The Rumpus, where she was the essays editor from 2013-2015. She was born in Seoul, South Korea and was raised in New York. She holds graduate degrees from Brown University and the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Arnold currently lives in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Students in their DWC Colloquiua are currently reading her book Litany for the Long Moment. About 100 students were present at the lecture in Guzman Hall. The book is based mainly on Arnold’s experience trying to discover her family history through a reality show that connects adopted children with members of their birth families. Simultaneously, Arnold discusses a day-by-day recount of her journey back to Korea. Regarding the format of the piece, neither the questions nor days are in chronological order, and she includes many images of her young self, documents, and pictures from a Korean textbook. Arnold began the lecture by reading the prologue from her book, so that students could understand her journey from the author’s perspective.
After reading the prologue and sharing some new poems that she has been working on, the floor was open for students to ask questions. The first question was, “How did your family react reading your book for the first time?” Arnold responded that her family members that are still living have been very supportive, generous, and kind after reading the book. She mentioned that if her mother was still alive, she probably would not have written it, but her relationships with other relatives were stable, and they recognized that it was her story that she needed to tell.
The next student asked, “After writing this book, have you been drawn to other authors who were adopted, too?” Arnold gave a very honest answer, saying that she was reluctant to write about her adoption and never had an “adoption community.” Writing this book opened her eyes to many people that are affected by adoption. She mentioned that so many people have reached out to her to share their similar stories. “It was a really incredible gift that I got out of it unexpectedly.” Coincidentally, there was a student who had been adopted in the audience, and she shared how she was able to relate to Arnold’s book.
Ruby Daley ’21 said, “I think that Arnold did a beautiful job explaining the structure of her text and reasoning behind her words. She was open to any questions and gave great insights to what it is like writing about oneself. I definitely appreciate her work even more after hearing her lecture.”