Oral Histories and Written Memoirs (Sarah Piatt Recovery Project)

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Oral Histories and Written Memoirs
Compiler, Professor Elizabeth Renker, The Ohio State University Department of English

Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt (1836-1919), a popular, prolific, and well-regarded poet during her lifetime, published more than 600 poems for multiple audiences. Her work appeared in venues ranging from political newspapers to elite magazines and anthologies to periodicals for children. Her earliest poems, when she was still "Sallie M. Bryan," were published in the 1850s by the most influential editors of the age. She married John James Piatt, a poet from Ohio, in 1861. For decades, her work continued to meet with robust national and transatlantic acclaim. She fell into obscurity upon her death, at a time when modernist poets were turning against their poetic predecessors, and against women poets in particular, as allegedly stodgy and conventional. (Only recently have these twentieth-century ideologies of poetic value themselves become subjects of scrutiny and critique.) In a remarkable cultural turn whose full history remains to be written, Piatt was rediscovered in the 1990s by numerous scholars working independently of one another. Since that time, she has quickly gained stature as a major artist. In this collection of interviews and written memoirs, scholars who contributed to the first and second waves of Piatt’s recovery tell their stories about how they came to "find" Piatt—and why they identified her as a major author deserving of cultural reclamation.

Interviews to date:

Dr. Larry R. Michaels, 10 October 2017, conducted by Professor Elizabeth Renker. In 1999, Michaels produced the first edition of selected works by Piatt published since her death in 1919, That New World: Selected Poems of Sarah Piatt, 1861-1911. Dr. Michaels has donated a substantial collection of research notes and Piatt materials, including first editions, to the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library at The Ohio State University. A finding aid for his papers is available at https://library.osu.edu/collections/spec.rare.0222. Book and serial donations may be found in the library catalog through a keyword search on "gift of Larry R. Michaels."

Dr. Paula Bernat Bennett, 9 September 2017, conducted by Professor Elizabeth Renker. In 2001, Bennett produced the first edition of selected works by Piatt published by a university press, Palace-Burner: The Selected Poetry of Sarah Piatt. Dr. Bennett has donated her research materials to the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library (https://library.osu.edu/collections/spec.rare.cms.0116).

Dr. Elizabeth Renker, 27 July 2020, conducted by University Libraries Curator of Modern Literature and Manuscripts, Jolie Braun. Dr. Renker is an Ohio State University English Professor and second-wave Piatt scholar. She discusses her work on the poet, including building on the efforts of first-wave scholars to bring Piatt into the American literary canon, teaching Piatt to undergraduates, writing Piatt's first biography, and collaborating with the Ohio State University Libraries on the Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt Recovery Project.

Dr. Geoffrey D. Smith, 22 January 2021, conducted by Professor Elizabeth Renker. Dr. Smith is Professor Emeritus of The Ohio State University Libraries and the former Head of the Rare Books & Manuscripts Library. He discusses his work as a curator, developing the unit’s Charvat Collection of American Literature and Sarah Piatt holdings, and the evolution of the special collections field over the past 30 years.

Dr. Karen L. Kilcup, 5 March 2021, conducted by Professor Elizabeth Renker. Dr. Kilcup is the Elizabeth Rosenthal Excellence Professor of English, Environmental & Sustainability Studies, and Women’s & Gender Studies at UNC Greensboro. In addition to publishing on topics related to the environment, American poetry and poetics, and children’s poetry, Dr. Kilcup has worked extensively on recovering overlooked or forgotten nineteenth-century American women writers. Her 1997 collection, Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers: An Anthology, included a selection of Sarah Piatt’s poetry and helped reintroduce Piatt to readers after her work had long been out of print.

Margaret Piatt, 27 February 2021, conducted by Professor Elizabeth Renker. A public historian by training, Margaret is the director of Piatt Castle Mac-A-Cheek in West Liberty, Ohio. Margaret is also a descendant of the Piatt family and has done extensive research on the Piatts and worked with Sarah Piatt scholars.

Dr. Pamela Kincheloe, 28 April 2021, conducted by Professor Elizabeth Renker. Dr. Kincheloe is a first-wave scholar of Sarah Piatt teaching at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She discusses working as a research assistant to Piatt scholar Paula Bennett in graduate school; her dissertation on Piatt; her experiences doing archival research; and her time in Ireland researching the Piatt family.

Dr. Bernadette Whelan, 23 August 2021, conducted by Professor Elizabeth Renker. Dr. Whelan is Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Limerick. Her areas of expertise include women's history, American-Irish diplomatic relations, and the US Consul in Ireland. She discusses J.J. Piatt's position as the US consul to Cork, the Piatt family living as Americans in Queenstown, and Irish politics and culture during the late nineteenth century.

Sean E. Andres, 23 January 2023, conducted by Professor Elizabeth Renker. He is a marketer, a writer, and a former educator who holds a B.S. in secondary English and language arts education (with a focus on women writers during the Civil War) and a Master’s degree in marketing (with a focus on diversity marketing from applied feminist and race theory). He works on an array of public history projects, especially in the Cincinnati area, with a focus on preserving and empowering the voices of historically marginalized populations. His work on Piatt has been published in The New Territory Magazine’s Literary Landscapes and Paideuma, the National Poetry Foundation journal.

Bridget Striker, 13 March 2023, conducted by Professor Elizabeth Renker. Bridget Striker is the Director of the Boone County Borderlands Archive and History Center at the Boone County Public Library in Burlington, KY. An anthropologist and librarian by training, Bridget brings her expertise in archaeology, mapping, and historic preservation into her work on Boone County’s complex history. In this first part of a two-part interview, she discusses the Kentucky relatives of Sarah’s husband, Ohioan John James Piatt. Those relatives were among the white settlers granted large tracts of land along the Ohio River for Revolutionary War service, and Bridget situates them in social networks and enslavement practices of this place and time.

Bridget Striker, 14 March 2023, conducted by Professor Elizabeth Renker. Bridget Striker is the Director of the Boone County Borderlands Archive and History Center at the Boone County Public Library in Burlington, KY. An anthropologist and librarian by training, Bridget brings her expertise in archaeology, mapping, and historic preservation into her work on Boone County’s complex history. In this second part of a two-part interview, she discusses enslavement practices in Boone County, Kentucky; the Kentucky relatives of Sarah’s husband John James Piatt who were enslavers; the existing documentation about the people the Kentucky Piatts enslaved and their efforts to seek their freedom; and the complexities of the lives of enslaved people, especially along the borderlands region of Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana.

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Now showing 1 - 11 of 11
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    Interview about Sarah Piatt with Bridget Striker by Dr. Elizabeth Renker (Part 2)
    (Ohio State University. Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, 2024-02) Striker, Bridget
    Interview with Bridget Striker, Director of the Boone County Borderlands Archive and History Center at the Boone County Public Library in Burlington, KY. Striker graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport with a degree in Anthropology and worked in environmental consulting as an Archaeologist and Geographic Information Systems Mapping Specialist before earning a Master's degree in Library Science. She brings her expertise in archaeology, mapping, and historic preservation into her work on Boone County's complex history, including Underground Railroad routes and activities and other freedom-seeking events by enslaved people. In this second part of a two-part interview, she discusses enslavement practices in Boone County, Kentucky; the Kentucky enslaver relatives of Sarah's husband, Ohioan John James Piatt; the existing documentation about the people the Kentucky Piatt families enslaved and their efforts to seek their freedom; and the complexities of the lives of enslaved people, especially along the borderlands region of Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana. Interview conducted via Zoom by Dr. Elizabeth Renker from the Department of English at The Ohio State University.
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    Interview about Sarah Piatt with Bridget Striker by Dr. Elizabeth Renker (Part 1)
    (Ohio State University. Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, 2024-02) Striker, Bridget
    Interview with Bridget Striker, Director of the Boone County Borderlands Archive and History Center at the Boone County Public Library in Burlington, KY. Striker graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport with a degree in Anthropology and worked in environmental consulting as an Archaeologist and Geographic Information Systems Mapping Specialist before earning a Master’s degree in Library Science. She brings her expertise in archaeology, mapping, and historic preservation into her work on Boone County's complex history. In this first part of a two-part interview, she discusses the Kentucky relatives of Sarah's husband, Ohioan John James Piatt. Those relatives were among the white settlers granted large tracts of land along the Ohio River for Revolutionary War service, and Bridget situates them in social networks and enslavement practices of this place and time. Interview conducted via Zoom by Dr. Elizabeth Renker from the Department of English at The Ohio State University.
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    Interview about Sarah Piatt with Sean Andres by Dr. Elizabeth Renker
    (Ohio State University. Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, 2023-01) Andres, Sean
    Interview with Sean E. Andres, who works on an array of public history projects, especially in the Cincinnati area, with a focus on preserving and empowering the voices of historically marginalized populations. His work on Piatt has been published in The New Territory Magazine’s Literary Landscapes and Paideuma, the National Poetry Foundation journal. Sean talks about how he initially found Sarah through her work speaking out against social norms of her time, including those about indigenous peoples; about connections between her poems and the deep history of the Cincinnati area, where Sarah and her husband J.J. long made their family home; and about the practicalities and challenges of conducting original archival research. Interview conducted in Columbus, Ohio, by Dr. Elizabeth Renker from the Department of English at The Ohio State University.
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    Interview about Sarah Piatt with Dr. Bernadette Whelan by Dr. Elizabeth Renker
    (Ohio State University. Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, 2022-06) Whelan, Bernadette
    Interview with Dr. Bernadette Whelan, Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Limerick. Her areas of expertise include women's history, American-Irish diplomatic relations, and the history of the US consular service in Ireland. She discusses J.J. Piatt's position as the US consul to Cork, 1882-1893; the Piatt family's experience as Americans in Queenstown (Cobh); and Irish politics and culture during that crucial period. Interview conducted via Zoom by Dr. Elizabeth Renker from the Department of English at The Ohio State University.
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    Interview about Sarah Piatt with Dr. Pamela Kincheloe by Dr. Elizabeth Renker
    (Ohio State University. Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, 2022-02) Kincheloe, Pamela
    Interview with Dr. Pamela Kincheloe, a first-wave scholar of Sarah Piatt. She discusses working as a research assistant to Piatt scholar Paula Bennett as a graduate student at Southern Illinois University; her dissertation on Piatt; her experiences doing archival research; and her time in Ireland researching the Piatt family. Dr. Kincheloe teaches at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. Her scholarship and teaching include deaf literature and culture, cyborg theory, and representations of deafness in film and visual media. Interview conducted via Zoom by Dr. Elizabeth Renker from the Department of English at The Ohio State University.
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    Interview about Sarah Piatt with Margaret Piatt by Dr. Elizabeth Renker
    (Ohio State University. Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, 2021-03) Piatt, Margaret
    Interview with Margaret Piatt about her connections to the Piatt family and her work managing Piatt Castle Mac-A-Cheek. Margaret also discusses the history of the Mac-A-Cheek and Mac-O-Chee Castles and the surrounding land, Donn and Abram Piatt (the brothers who built the Castles), working with first-wave Piatt scholars such as Dr. Paula Bernat Bennett and Dr. Larry R. Michaels in the early 2000s, and programming and public history events at the Castle.
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    Interview about Sarah Piatt with Dr. Karen L. Kilcup by Dr. Elizabeth Renker
    (Ohio State University. Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, 2021-03) Kilcup, Karen L.
    Interview with Dr. Karen L. Kilcup about her recovery work on nineteenth-century women writers and her efforts as a first-wave scholar of Sarah Piatt. Dr. Kilcup describes the research for her book, Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers: An Anthology, and how she came to work on Piatt. She also discusses Piatt’s poetry for children, her reception history, and significant poems. Interview conducted via Zoom by Professor Elizabeth Renker from the Department of English at The Ohio State University.
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    Interview about Sarah Piatt with Dr. Geoffrey Smith by Dr. Elizabeth Renker
    (Ohio State University. Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, 2021-01) Smith, Geoff
    Interview with Dr. Geoffrey D. Smith, former Head of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library. He discusses his work as a curator, developing the unit’s Charvat Collection of American Literature and Sarah Piatt holdings, and the evolution of the special collections field over the past 30 years. Interview conducted in Columbus, Ohio, by Dr. Elizabeth Renker from the Department of English at The Ohio State University.
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    Interview about Sarah Piatt with Dr. Elizabeth Renker by Jolie Braun
    (Ohio State University. Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, 2020-07-27) Renker, Elizabeth
    Interview with Dr. Elizabeth Renker about her work on nineteenth-century poet Sarah Piatt. During her lifetime, Piatt’s poetry was published in periodicals and newspapers and widely read but fell into obscurity after her death in 1919. Her work remained unknown until the 1990s, when scholars such as Dr. Renker began to rediscover her and reassess her work. Interview conducted in in Columbus, Ohio, by Jolie Braun, Curator of Modern Literature and Manuscripts at The Ohio State University.
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    Interview about Sarah Piatt with Dr. Paula Bernat Bennett by Dr. Elizabeth Renker
    (Ohio State University. Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, 2017-09-10) Bennett, Paula
    Interview with Dr. Paula Bernat Bennett about how she discovered Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt, a poet who had essentially been lost to literary history. Professor Bennett accidentally came upon Piatt in her research on women poets of the nineteenth century publishing in periodicals, and she later produced the first scholarly selected edition of Sarah’s poems since Sarah’s death in 1919: Palace-Burner: The Selected Poetry of Sarah Piatt (2001). Interview conducted in Arlington, Massachusetts, by Professor Elizabeth Renker from the Department of English at The Ohio State University.
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    Interview about Sarah Piatt with Dr. Larry R. Michaels by Dr. Elizabeth Renker
    (Ohio State University. Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, 2017-10-10) Michaels, Larry R.
    Interview with Dr. Larry R. Michaels, the scholar who produced the first modern edition of Sarah Piatt’s poetry (titled That New World: Selected Poems of Sarah Piatt 1861-1911, published in 1999) about how he came to find Sarah Piatt, leading to the publication of his groundbreaking edition. Interview conducted in Fremont, Ohio at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library by Professor Elizabeth Renker from the Department of English at The Ohio State University.