A Loom Press release party took place on Sunday May 22 in the O’Leary Library at UMass Lowell. Kate Hanson Foster’s Mid Drift, Dr. Paul Hudon’s All In Good Time, and Dr. Robert Forrant and Dr. Christoph Strobel’s The Big Move: Immigrant Voices from a Mill City were featured at the event. Readings from the books took place with Foster and Hudon reading from their poetry books and immigrants reading their own stories from The Big Move.
Foster’s Mid Drift, a book of poetry inspired by her time in Lowell during her 20s, covers many topics drawn from the seedier side of Lowell life such as homelessness, prostitution and infidelity. These themes are mixed with poetry about friends and family. Lowell’s historical elements, such as the old mill buildings, provided Foster with “a springboard of creativity” with which to think about those themes. She says that writers respond to the mill buildings because they are a constant reminder of Lowell’s historical significance. In her own writing, Lowell as the pinnacle of the industrial revolution provided many ideas for her work. Foster always enjoyed writing poetry and decided to write a book-length manuscript as part of an MFA writing seminar at Bennington College.
When asked why she enjoys writing poetry, Foster said, “To me, I’m always attracted to writing that can enchant, sing and inspire even when distilled down to it’s most purest state. There is a pleasant ‘surprise’ factor in poetry that’s successful in this way, and that is something I am always aspiring to achieve in my own writing.”
Foster put Loom press on the top of her list of publishers to which she submitted because she wanted Lowell to, in a sense, own the book. She has written one poem for her next manuscript and hopes to publish another book in the future.
All In Good Time
Hudon, a historian and regionalist, decided to write some poetry after surgery on his hand since it was more pragmatic to write poetry than write history with a recovering hand. He challenged himself to write one poem a day and even after his hand recovered, Hudon continued to write, ending up with a year of poems. The result of that effort turned into All In Good Time.
Themes about identity, religion, and confidences between people recur throughout the book. A waterfall and the birds flying outside Hudon’s apartment window are examples of the imagery used in many of the poems. He sees the book as resembling a journal in poetry form. When he looks back at his poems, he notices the recurring themes and feels it is a way of getting to know himself.
When asked about his writing process, Hudon said, “We’re living in a mysterium here. We have some idea of where we are but I don’t think any of us get the whole thing. There are energies and options moving around us all the time.” Two examples Hudon gave of this energy at work were when two people fall in love or even when a plumber comes up with an idea. True to this idea, Hudon writes in the morning for about an hour to an hour and twenty minutes, a time he feels the most creative energy.
After he finished the writings, Hudon put the poems aside for years until he showed them to Paul Marion, the founder of Loom Press. Marion thought the book was important to publish due to its Lowell connection. Now that this book has been published, Hudon recommends readers choose a poem each day rather than reading many poems at once to get the most out of the experience.
The Big Move: Immigrant Voices from a Mill City
The Big Move tells the story of immigrants who have moved to Lowell in the past 25 years. Forrant and Strobel collected these stories as part of a larger project for the Lowell National Historical Park in which 35 immigrants were interviewed. A good deal of research has been conducted about the experiences of immigrants in Lowell, but this work gave Forrant and Strobel the unique opportunity to add to the smaller body of knowledge about more recent immigrants. Forrant and Strobel worked on their free weekends for over three years to complete the study. Forrant said this book represents a great Lowell collaboration since the cover art was created by two Lowell High School students. Anabelle Souza and Atena Vilorio created the murals depicted in the cover as part of an immigrant history mural project. Graphic design and publishing were done by Lowell businesses Higgins & Ross and Loom Press. Forrant also has a connection as he teaches at UMass Lowell and has taught about Lowell history for many years.
Strobel collected the interviews used in The Big Move with the help of graduate students. Each interview followed an outline but maintained an informal conversational tone to help the immigrants tell their stories. Many immigrants were willing to share their stories without much prompting, but others needed more questions to help relate their experiences. Strobel said he needed to distinguish when to ask questions and when it is “important to sometimes shut up and listen.” He also said, “If people aren’t talking, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a story.” He found it was important to patiently bring a story out of the people he interviewed.
The immigrants often explained a harsh reality and reflected on some truth they sought in their lives. Some of the stories about the Cambodian and Armenian genocide, racial slurs, and hate crimes even surprised Strobel who specializes in the area of race and ethnicity. He also discovered positive interactions between different immigrant groups in Lowell as they collaborate with each other.
Forrant and Strobel’s next project consists of incorporating the report done for the National Park Service into a book about Lowell history that starts with Native Americans and includes recent immigrant history.