JHU undergraduate Joyce Ker, the 2020 recipient of the William H. and Susanne S. Tyler Dean’s Undergraduate Research Award (DURA), conducted research in the Sheridan Library’s Marion Buchman papers, which document the career and personal life of Baltimore poet Marion Buchman. Ker interpreted her research by creating a scrapbook, “In Conversation with Marion Buchman,” that juxtaposes Buchman’s interviews, correspondence, photographs, and reading lists with original poetry Ker wrote “in conversation” with Buchman’s archive. For example, Ker created a “blackout poem” in which she redacted (or blacked out) text from one of Buchman’s love letters to develop a poem of her own.Joyce Ker

Ker writes: “I was obsessed with the complexity, richness, and musicality of the language in the love letters that Buchman received. I thought, ‘If people had to write love letters using no more than 10 words, how would the economy of language add or take away from the expression of a sentiment as rich and complicated as love?’ The question triggered in me the idea to create a blackout poem.” Ker also wrote a prose-poem, “Story Made from Dust and Prairie Fires,” which creatively combines elements from Buchman’s life history and Ker’s own. Ker’s scrapbook draws on the archive to imaginatively explore and enact the creative writing process.

Additionally, Ker wrote a research paper, published in The Macksey Journal based on her DURA research and scrapbook project. According to Ker, the paper “serves as a proposal for creative writing pedagogy, suggesting that the instruction of craft need not be purely theoretical but also experimental.”

Joyce Ker is an undergraduate student at Johns Hopkins studying Medicine, Science, and the Humanities. A Best New Poets and Pushcart Prize nominee, Ker’s works have appeared in Boxcar Poetry Review, Louisville Review, and Zeniada Magazine, among others. Ker is passionate about promoting the visibility of other women writers. Ker would like to thank the following individuals who have supported her passion for poetry: Stacey McCown, Robert Richmond, Andrew Seike, Suzanne Turner, Emily Wan, Meghana Kumar, Heidi Herr, Margaret Burri, Gabrielle Dean.