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.

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