Some Thoughts on a Peace Corps Library
Peace Corps may be “Forever Young” in the public imagination but in reality, it is one of the oldest “new” federal agencies. Its fifty-five years of operation will take a gigantic effort to accurately document. Public, independent and well funded, a Peace Corps Library needs more to be successful. It needs a professional Librarian Research staff, a RPCV advisory committee, an Internet presence as well as a physical location.
Why a Professional Librarian Research Staff?
The materials, books, documents, memorabilia and electronic items are scattered all over. Some are in the public domain; some are in private or public university collections. Most of the documents from Peace Corps’ first decades are hard copy and have not been digitalized. The expertise of a professional Librarian Research staff is necessary to locate all of the items, to create a catalog system and to work to make these items accessible, even if they remain in the physical possession of the different institutions.
American University has a Peace Corps Community Archive, University of New Mexico has an extensive collection of public records relating to training and selection for early groups going to South and Central America; University of Michigan and Rutgers are just some of the universities with individual Peace Corps collections. Federal depositories of Peace Corps history include the Smithsonian Institution; the JFK Library with its extensive Peace Corps staff and RPCV collections, including 500 RPCV oral histories; and the Peace Corps Record Group at the National Archives in College Park, MD. Professional Librarians will have the skill to coordinate with Librarians and Archivists in all these important places.
Why a RPCV Advisory Committee?
A RPCV Advisory Committee is necessary because the Peace Corps has no institutional memory. Each decade should be represented by at least one RPCV, who could answer questions about Peace Corps operations in that era; or, who could contact friends and others to help answer questions and correct errors. The Peace Corps Act called for a Peace Corps Advisory Council to advise the President on matters regarding the operation of the Peace Corps. There has been no council for decades. However, I think that the concept of Advisory Council for a Peace Corps Library reflects the values, which first created the Peace Corps Advisory Council.
My experience also prompted me to recommend the creation of such a Council. I have encountered all kinds of misinformation about Peace Corps in my search for records. One NARA archivist thought that I had “worked” for Peace Corps in Colombia for twenty years. Another archivist was frustrated because some Peace Corps records were listed under ACTION. T.
The professional librarian staff together with the RPCV Advisory Committee, as well as the National Archives staff and that of Peace Corps, must develop protocols to protect personal and “confidential” information that may be contained in these materials. The documents must be protected for future historians, but some may have to have restricted access, today.
Why an Internet Presence?
The Internet is the new neighborhood bar, college library, Encyclopedia Britiana, backyard fence, coffee cafe, or old fashion Barber shop and Beauty parlor; it is where you go to find out what’s going on. The Peace Corps Library has to be there; the place to go to find answers to questions about Peace Corps; to find Peace Corps history; and to link to the official Peace Corps website; as well as all the independent RPCVs websites and activities
Perhaps it would also be possible to offer a special research review to those scholars who are preparing theses and dissertations about Peace Corps. The scholar could post his or her work, prior to final submission, and ask for comments from serving PCVs and RPCVs. The Research Librarian staff could facilitate this with colleges and universities.
Why a Physical Location?
In the age of the Internet, why would a Peace Corps Library need actual space? Michelle Jeske, Denver’s City Librarian said it best in her description of why a physical location is essential to a public library “And we act as so-called third places — gathering spots away from home and work — where people can collaborate, share or escape into an engaging book or project.” (http://www.denverpost.com/2016/11/26/considering-the-denver-public-librarys-mission-in-the-wake-of-the-election/)
The Peace Corps Library’s “Third Place” should be multi-dimensional; to include the prerequisite research room, a public reading and video place, a book and craft store with the essential coffee/tea bar, a conference room and a museum with special collections for children.
RPCVs have created excellent documentaries, such as Jill Vickers’s “Once in Afghanistan“, all of Alan Toth’s work with Posh Corps, and Alana DeJoseph’s “Towering Task”, now in final stages of production. Serving Volunteers write blogs and post videos of their work, and Peace Corps is well represented on You Tube. The National Archives also has a collection of videos and photographs from the early years. These should be easily available to view at a Peace Corps Library. John Coyne and Marian Haley Beil have promoted Peace Corps Writers for over 35 years and all of those hundreds of book should be available not only in a “reading room” but also for sale in the book store. Craft items from Peace Corps projects should also be for sale.
The Museum of the Peace Corps Experience has been a project of the Columbia River Peace Corps Alumni group for many years. http://www.museumofthepeacecorpsexperience.org/CMPCE_site/HOME.html. It is hoped that the committee for this wonderful project would agree to also exhibit in the Peace Corps Library.
Together, all of this beautiful Peace Corps synergy would be in pursuit of the Third Goal: To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. I would hope that the next four years would be a good time to concentrate on the making of a Peace Corps Library a reality
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Hi John, I think this is a great idea, and timely. Lots of RPCVs are worried following the recent election. So far, I can see reason for optimism, and have been encouraging our local RPCVs (New Mexico and S Colorado) to write the Trump Transition Team and make the case. My sense of the situation is that they CAN do that, and successfully.
Because I’ve been involved with a discussion elsewhere on this website, I don’t want to say much here, for the time being, anyway.
Like you, I regret the demise of the original Peace Corps Advisory Council. The Peace Corps always has been as much an expression of the American people as of the Government, and the Advisory Council would reaffirm that. As early as 1964 serving PCVs had recommended the internationalization of the PC, joining with other such efforts like the VSO, CUSO, MSF/DWB, TWA and TEA, under the general coordination of the United Nations. At that time the greatest fear was volunteers being suspected of being spies, planted by the CIA. or propagandists for current US Gov’t foreign policy. At the time, the Kennedy Administration established the policy of strict independence of the PC Agency — a concept which since has been manipulated, perverted, and generally abandoned. There was a reason for it, and still is. My thinking is that the Advisory
Council for a PC Library could actually serve as the original, advising Presidents, Congress, and the PC Agency. The composition would be very important, and I have some ideas for that — broader than what you’ve outlined here.
As for a physical location, and again emphasizing the American People, I think it should definitely NOT be located in Washington, which would emphasize that this is something belonging to the Government, but rather some place in The Heartland. My choice is Denver or Boulder, Colorado, for several reasons, but would be happy with Minneapolis, Omaha, or Sioux City. Places where the populace embraces the PC concept and would support the library.
As a representation of the American People, I would like to see the entire Peace Corps Agency, partially funded by philanthropy, underscoring it’s continuation even should some radical Administration attempt to destroy it by withholding it’s budget. We had one near miss, and survived it, but it was a fluke, which depended on some unusual people and unusual circumstances. You probably know what I’m referring to.
Again, a great idea, and one which the late Bob Kline, who did all of those RPCV Oral Histories, would applaud. Bob wanted to see exactly what you’re envisioning, and agreed with me on a lot of things. JAT
I have been trying for a dozen or more years to ‘bring back’ the in-house Peace Corps library without any luck. I attempted with Carrie recently and the GSA killed that idea. That is ‘why’ I think the agency will be kicked out of town. No one cares about the Peace Corps in Official Washington. As Joanne has pointed out there are ‘other’ locations. After the 25th Reunion I got the Kennedy Library to start a collection of “Peace Corps material” but they were (and are) only interested in what happened during the Kennedy Years.
Now, most of the ‘history’ of the agency is on digital platforms. But where are those wonderful written evaluation reports from the first decade of the agency? My guess is that most are at the Library of Congress.
We don’t have a central location for print and digital. And the agency doesn’t care. The truth is that the Peace Corps has never cared about RPCVs. We might add another word to the famous expression: In, Up and Out ……Forgot!
The written evaluations are at the National Archives and Report Administration at College Park, Record Group 490. I think they are all there.
John, Here is the post about the evaluations:
It describes the location at College Park, National Archives for this section of important Peace Corps records.
The problem is that none of these are digitalized. One has to go out to College Park and go through a very
elaborate and time consuming process to be able review the records. There are limits on how many “boxes” one can see at one request. Also, the collection is not well described, so the entry may not specify which countries or programs or times are in the specific”box” of evaluations.
I have never been to the JFK Library, but only a handful of the RPCV oral histories are available on line. Some of the recordings of Kennedy are online. But, again, it is all very difficult to access. I think that the work you did after the 25th Anniversary did create the first collection of Peace Corps material, outside the agency.
Each one of these institutions has done a very valuable service of preserving some Peace Corps records, but each also has its own priorities and processes. You are right, Peace Corps is not a priority.
Just a few months ago, I completed the ritual for donating almost 600 of my handwritten blue aerogrammes from PC tours in Kenya (65-66) and India (67-68) to American University’s growing collection of PC memorabilia.
Frankly, I chose this archive because it seems the one getting the most use. Some clearly see out only memorabilia from certain countries, and, as has been pointed out, the Kennedy Library’s collection is strictly limited.
To me, it’s important, that the public be made aware of the CURRENT resources more aggressively, and I suggested as much to the very friendly archivist at AU assigned to this particular collection. I would NOT like to see us duplicate all the repositories; I fear there are perhaps too many already, thus diminishing any single collection.
Dave Day (Rochester, NY)
The Peace Corps Volunteer Community Archive at American University is very important. In describing my proposal for a Peace Corps Library, I call for master database, created by professional archivists at a Peace Corps Library to locate and create a catalog for ALL the various collections, giving a specific description and location of each item.
That is what we don’t have now. I tried to write a history of Peace Corps in Colombia. There are records all over, including at AU. But there is not one database for all of those items and I have even attempting to do that. However, I am not a trained archivist or librarian.
The donations to the PC Volunteer Community Archive at AU are the property of American University. To my knowledge it is the only Archive currently accepting materials from all RPCVs.
However, it is not the only repository of materials from RPCVs. That is why a Peace Corps Library is so necessary.
I have been trying since last April to get the Third Goal Office of the Peace Corps just to identify and link on their website the independent activities of RPCVs in support of the Third Goal, including the PC Community Archive at AU, as well as this website, Peace Corps World Wide, among others. It is still “under review” by the Third Goal Office team.
It is not possible nor desirable to duplicate all the various collections. What is needed is a place and trained people to coordinate and promote the collections and to make them accessible so that valid research can be done.
Joanne Roll RPCV Colombia 1963-65
I have two questions for you in regard to your suggestion that the public be made aware of current resources.
1) The first is: How did you find out about the Peace Corps Volunteer Archive at American University?
2) The second question comes with a disclaimer. Who do you think should be responsible for publicizing existing archival resources? The disclaimer is that I don’t believe that any one university, agency or person has this responsibility. But, I would welcome your opinion.
This in reply to John (Coyne), Certainly looking at past PC directorships, some, like Mark Gearan seemed very tuned in to RPCVs, and the role they had, vis The Third Goal. Other directors totally indifferent. And agency advocacy aside, the NPCA has been pretty ambivalent about its role, other than as a springboard for Washington insiders climbing the career ladder and building resumes. When the original Council of Returned PCVs , with the best of intentions, morphed into today’s Washington lobbying organization, a lot of emphases changed, I think.
With the creation of their Office of Third Goal, I had hoped that the Peace Corps Agency was finally taking RPCVs and the Third Goal seriously — more than just Wishful Thinking and platitudes. I still don’t know what to think. We’ve always had things like Worldwise Schools, but almost all of those things have depended on individual RPCV and school district initiative, and zero budget.
I also am concerned about the diminishing number of RPCVs (and AmeriCorps veterans) serving in the Congress. However, New Mexico’s Jr Senator, Martin Heinrich, is the only Senator having served in either (in this case AmeriCorps), and even if the Peace Corps Agency is indifferent, perhaps we can prevail upon him, together with the largely supportive New Mexico delegation (and friend Raul Grijalva, D-AZ) to spearhead some of what you (John) are envisioning. That, AND to approach all the retired ones (like Chris Dodd, Sam Farr, et al) to appeal to their colleagues. AND appeal to the miriad foundations claiming some interest in the subject of voluntarism.
Lots to be thinking about. JAT
For the last five years or so, I have been fortunate to have been given an opportunity by John Coyne and Marian Haley Beil to blog on their website, Peace Corps World Wide.
My blog topic has been Peace Corps: Public Records. The post “A Proposal for a Peace Corps Library: Part II was written by me, Joanne Roll. I apologize for not bringing this to your attention sooner, but I really appreciated reading your comments and hoped that they would continue.
You are absolutely right that Bob Klein very much envisioned a Peace Corps Volunteer Archive. He and RPCV Pat Wand, Librarian Emeritus of American University drafted such a proposal, in December of 2011. Bob asked if I would sign on to the draft. I gladly agreed. Tragically, Bob died in the Spring of 2012 before he could fully implement his ideas. However, the Peace Corps Community Archive at American University is the result of his dream. My ideas build on that as well as my experience researching, or more realistically attempting to research, the history of Peace Corps
In the first part of a Proposal for a Peace Corps Library, I stressed that such a facility should be public, independent and well funded. I don’t know if you have seen that post. I would welcome your opinion on that even if you don’t agree with its design. Thanks. .
Here is the link to Proposal for a Peace Corps Library – Part I
Thanks for clarifying who wrote what, concerning the PC Library proposal. I certainly support it, and so far haven’t seen any aspect, as proposed, that I would oppose.
As I earlier mentioned and agree (I think) that this should NOT be a gov’t function, subject to US Gov’t control — incl revising history or even abolishing it. In this regard, there is a very impressive model, and that has to do with the preservation and display of vintage military aircraft. ALL of this work, other than some done at Wright Patterson AFB, and a couple display museums at other Air Force bases, is done by private organizations, incl some aircraft manufacturing firms, and their alumni employees. The DOD seems very happy with the arrangement. It’s been financed entirely by military history philanthropies, volunteer efforts, and as I said, occasionally a manufacturing firm.
I earlier mentioned, concerning a location, that it be NOT in Washington, but in The Heartland. Two reasons. First it underscores that this is a function of the American People, and not the US Gov’t, and secondly being more centrally located will facilitate inexpensive travel to it, by researchers. I earlier suggested a place like Denver or Boulder, Colorado. easy air and train access from all directions, and besides being central, it has the added attraction of other things to do whilst visiting. Researchers could make a vacation of it. Going skiing, camping, fishing,, & cetera.
I would think that one of the first steps would be to find the location/facility/space, and in this regard I would think that a university would be able to find some space, AND enjoy some prestige in having the library on campus. Also, existing university library staff could help out now and then. And universities are already equipped to send research materials back and forth. Think of Univ of Colorado (or one of it’s branches) or Colorado College.
Once the space is lined up and available, the huge task of moving paper records, digitizing, copying, & c could begin, with help coming from both the records holders and the new library. AND, possibly contracted assistance in the early stages.
I continue to think that private philathropies, either specific ones or nonspecific (like Warren Buffet), with the space already made available, could be lined up to provide the annual funding.
You had suggested creating a Library Advisory Committee, and I had suggested it be combined to serve additionally the role originally envisioned for the original Peace Corps Advisory Board.
In connexion with such an Advisory body, you (or somebody) had suggested one RPCV per each decade, or period, to be available to represent that period. Because there always has been such a dichotomy of PC experience, sense of satisfaction, nature of work from project to project, country to country, and even continent to continent, it might be more useful to have a subcommittee from various experiences. Without ignoring the changes over TIME, maybe organize a subcommittee for education, epidemiology, early childhood development, agriculture, and scientific/ technical. And try to build in some time coverage as well. Being a member of the earliest PC Technical Project (Ghana-3 Geology), and serving in a similar capacity in Malawi, I have been advocating for more technical projects for years. Assuming recruits can be found — always a limitation.
Lastly, I should mention that some years ago there had been a lot written and done relating to Peace Corps geology and earth sciences projects, and their role in economic development. Robt Levich, of Ghana-3 was instrumental in that, and the Geological Society of America hosted some conclaves and discussions, and published some of it. That’s available, too.
Anyway, here are some thoughts and suggestions. I would be happy to address any specific enquiry this may engender. JAT
John Turnbull, Thank you so much for all your suggestions. I am working on commenting, Just wanted you to know that you have sparked all kinds of ideas on “what comes next”.
Here are my thoughts about your suggestions. First, you are focusing on what to do next and I really think that is good. But I would plan the steps differently. In Part I of the Proposal, I stressed that I think a Peace Corps Library should be public, independent and adequately funded. It will take legislation to create such a library and only then, do I think that universities and philanthropies could become involved. I believe that Peace Corps history is public history and can not be outsourced to universities, private corporations, or philanthropies.
I am not sure exactly what is the best way to create a legal foundation protect the Library from the type of government control that you expressed real concern about, a concern I share. That is the reason I think a Peace Corps Library has to be independent of the Peace Corps agency because the agency is structured to allow each new political administration to make its own policies and decisions around Third Goal and Peace Corps history. Legislation could also establish a constant funding stream.
The model you described about the display of military vintage airplanes resembles the model used by the RPCVs of the Columbia River Peace Corps Alumni group in Portland, OR to create the “Museum of the Peace Corps Experience.” For more than ten years, they have exhibited various displays about Peace Corps, highlighting memorabilia donated by RPCVs. It is a wonderful project.
The Library, however, has to be a place not just information and display, but research. That calls for a more complete collection and professional permanent management. I failed to really describe well how I see the task of the professional librarian/research staff. There are Peace Corps collections scattered all over, some are in the public domain, most are the property of public and private universities. It would not be legally possible to take those collections or digitalize them. I also think it would not be necessary. The first task of a professional staff would be to create a database showing the location and description by date, country and program of every single Peace Corps work. That will take a monumental effort. That done, the staff could negotiate with the various archives on ways to make their collections accessible either thorough the Internet or Inter Library Loan.
Your suggestion about expanding the Advisory Council is great! Why isn’t that being done right now, some place! That would be a working committee and invaluable.
Your idea has led me to think that this might be the place to begin. Congress might be willing fund a research grant to a Graduate School of Library Science to create a master database of all Peace Corps
materials, public records, RPCV memorabilia, theses and dissertations about Peace Corps, and books by RPCVs. Such a grant could include the working committees you described. Such a database could become the justification for then creating a Peace Corps Library.
Thank you so much for making me think!
Among the so many gifted and dedicated RPCVs who work in the area of film is Allen Mondell (Sierra Leone 1963-65). His work, “Waging Peace” was featured on Peace Corps World Wide. (http://peacecorpsworldwide.org/allen-2/) August 2012.
Allen and his wife, Cynthia Salzman Mondell have been producing documentaries for 40 years. Here is the website: http://www.mediaprojects.org/about/
From the website:
“Media Projects,Inc., is a non-profit organization that has been producing and distributing documentary films for 40 years. Our films have aired nationwide on PBS and on both commercial and cable television. We distribute these films and videos throughout the United States, Canada and Europe to schools, libraries, museums, churches, social service organizations, youth groups and government agencies. We have won numerous national awards and have been selected for prestigious screenings in the United States and abroad. Several of our films screen daily at museums and at the visitor center of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, New York.”
Concerning, Joanne R’s last message, I think that some organic legislation, esp not involving appropriation of much Federal money, should be easy to get. I have some suggestions for WHO. Such legislation would essentially declare all library-held records to be in the public domain.
Second, I think whilst universities may have their limitations, esp concerning “politically correct protests” I personally think they can be trusted to be objective, and NOT claim political control or proprietary ownership over a national library entrusted to their care. Legislation could identify such a university, and the terms — if we had it already identified and willing.
You’re correct that the task of copying and/or digitizing copious records is a big job. Some universities may simply wish to physically transfer their records on permanent loan. Once enabling legislation is adopted, lots of things can happen under that unbrella, and safely for everybody.
It sounds to me like the compendium of where all the various records are housed, is already mostly done, and could, even before establishment of a physical library, made available to researchers.
Concerns about the lack of information about actual, hands-on volunteer experiences, to some extent already has been recorded in the many books published by former volunteers. A descriptive compendium of all of these, already, to some exent, is available from J Coyne’s work. Again, make this available to researchers, in some edited form. I’m sure this can be easily done.
The enabling legislation we are talking about, COULD also reconstitute the original idea of a Peace Corps advisory body, particularly since it already has been addressed in the original PC organic act. I have NOT seen that language, to know what it originally said. If you have it, please forward. JAT
I don’t think that the federal government can declare that all “library held records to be in the public domain.”
There are all kinds of issues. When RPCV and PC staff make a donation to a library, they sign a form specifying to the institution to which the donation is being made.The item becomes the property of the specific Library. In addition, many RPCVs retain the copyright to their work, even when it has been donated.
This statement is absolutely true for books by RPCV writers: “Concerns about the lack of information about actual, hands-on volunteer experiences, to some extent already has been recorded in the many books published by former volunteers. A descriptive compendium of all of these, already, to some exent, is available from J Coyne’s work. Again, make this available to researchers, in some edited form. I’m sure this can be easily done.”
The Library of Congress has an annotated bibliography books by Peace Corps Writers. Marian Haley Beil has a more comprehensive bibliography and is constantly updating it. Coyne and Beil are responsible for promoting the involvement of Library of Congress in creating such a record. The books are available now for researchers, as are records in the National Archives, Smithsonian,etc. The problem is there is no master database listing describing these records or their location. Over 230,000 Volunteers have served over the last 55 years in 140 countries. There are not enough books to begin to even cover those valuable experiences.
You mentioned some very important records of your own. Where are the records from your experience in Ghana? ( Ghana is one host country whose archives do have some Peace Corps records. A search should be done to see if which of the other countries have such archives.) Where did you train? If it was in the US, was it a college or university? Do they still have records of that training in their libraries? Are they accessible? For example, Rutgers University in New Jersey was the site of the very first Peace Corps training group, Colombia I. Their Library is only accessible to their students. I don’t know if they have records from that first training or not.
David Day just donated 600 of his ” handwritten blue aerogrammes from PC tours in Kenya (65-66) and India (67-68)” to the Archive at American University. That is another incredibly important historical collection. There are other records of this time and place at Colorado State University (I think, I know that Pakistan was one of the early PC programs managed by CSU). There are RPCV oral histories at the JFK Library from RPCVs who served in India. There are other records all over. So, to do a history of Peace Corps in India, or of a certain time or certain program in that country, a researcher would have to know where these record were and all the other records of PC India and be able to access them. That is precisely what a Peace Corps Library staff would help to do.
What is happening, is people are writing about the Peace Corps and making up stuff based on their own political perspective or vague memories of what they once heard or saw about Peace Corps or on a handful of publications.
I am passionate about getting the history of Peace Corps right.
You can go to the government printing office website and search for Public Law 87-293, which is the original Peace Corps Act.
Here is the description of the Peace Corps National Advisory Council.
“From the Peace Corps Act, 1961:PEACE CORPS NATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL
SEC. 12. (a) The President may appoint to membership in a board to be known as the Peace Corps National Advisory Council twenty-five persons who are broadly representative of educational institutions, vol- untary agencies, farm organizations, and labor unions, and other public and private organizations and groups as well as individuals interested in the programs and objectives of the Peace Corps, to advise and consult with the President with regard to policies and programs designed to further the purposes of this A ct.
(b) Members of the Council shall serve at the pleasure of the Presi- dent and meet at his call. They shall receive no compensation for their services, but members who are not officers or employees of the United States Government may each receive out of funds made available for the purposes of this Act a per diem allowance of $50 for each day, not to exceed twenty days in any fiscal year in the case of any such member, spent away from his home or regular place of business for the purpose of attendance at meetings or conferences and in necessary travel, and while so engaged may be paid actual travel expenses and per diem in lieu of subsistence and other expenses, at the applicable rate prescribed by the Standardized Government Travel Regulations, as amended from time to time. ”
For the record, I disagree with your opinion of universities. I stand by my Proposal that the Peace Corps Library be free and independent.
Joanne Roll’s contradictory but laudable two-part proposal to establish a “public, independent and well-funded” Peace Corps library with “a physical location” and an “Internet presence” in a heartland city such as Boulder, Denver, or Sioux City needs a reality check. Joanne notes that, “It will take legislation to create such a library…,” and that, “Legislation could also establish a constant funding source.” That’s wishful thinking. On the one hand, Joanne argues for a congressionally legislated and funded library. On the other hand, she demands a library that is not only independent of Peace Corps funding but autonomous and free of any government control. That sounds contradictory and unrealistic.
Moreover, the outmoded idea of establishing a quaint little brick-and-mortar library with an “Internet presence” and a “physical location” in a heartland city would be quite inconvenient for most researchers, except for those who can afford to combine their research with ski trips. If it were located in the Washington, D.C. area, researchers would be able to conveniently access other far-more-substantial Peace Corps repositories, such as those at American University, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives. After all, the collections of these institutions have been built up over decades. It’s unrealistic to think that it would be more worthwhile to travel to a heartland city to use an embryonic and redundant collection.
An online catalog gives a library an Internet presence, but that’s not the same as a digital library, which makes its collections accessible online. A digitized Peace Corps collection would be far more useful and accessible. Even currently serving PCVs and staff would be able to access it for background research on Peace Corps programs in their countries.
Good luck in lobbying Congress for a pet project with no chance of being legislated much less funded, especially if the terms are that it be autonomous from the Peace Corps and “government interference” and hidden in a heartland city. Those conditions require a private library, not a government legislated and funded library. An Internet giant like Google would have the capability and funding to create a digitized Peace Corps collection. Even if Google were interested in doing so, it would not likely be for philanthropic reasons but rather because of its effort to digitize all books.
Another option would be to engender a collaborative project between Google and either American University or the Library of Congress. The latter has a substantial number of Peace Corps-related items in its collections (books, videos, maps, et cetera). The LOC catalog lists more than 1,000 items with “Peace Corps” in their titles. A number of them would be uncopyrighted U.S. Government documents related to the creation, management, and funding of the Peace Corps. Most would likely be copyrighted works, although Google is not known to be concerned about digitizing copyrighted books.
The Library of Congress also has a substantial digital library called American Memory (see https://www.loc.gov/collections/). Why not lobby the members of Congress who are RPCVs and ask them to get the Library of Congress to create a digital Peace Corps Collection for American Memory? It would not happen without a congressional request.
For a sampling of the copyrighted books on the Peace Corps experience in the Library of Congress collections, see the online annotated bibliography that I used to prepare when I was a research analyst with LOC. Titled “Peace Corps Authors with Books in the Library of Congress,” it is accessible at http://www.loc.gov/PeaceCorps. With a few exceptions, such as Stanley Meisler’s When the World Calls, the bibliography focuses on the Peace Corps experience rather than history.
In summary, a 21st-century Peace Corps digital and online collection based in an existing institution, particularly the Library of Congress or American University, would be far more useful for researchers than a 20th-century brick-and-mortar library sitting in Sioux City and starting from scratch.
Rex Hudson, RPCV/Bolivia
Thank you, Rex for your comments. But now I going to blow a whistle and tell everyone back to their corners. What is happening is what I wrote is being confused with what has been written in the comments, or what I did not write. I look forward to a more productive conversation because of all the experience that you, John Turnbull and David Day have. even if we are not in agreement. Here is my experience.
My proposal for a Peace Corps Library comes from my experience as a Volunteer in Colombia 63-65. I have been to the National Archives at College Park and have spent time with the Peace Corps Records there. I was on the committee that helped establish the Peace Corps Volunteer Community Archives at American University. I have visited the South West Research Archives at the University of New Mexico, my almost alma mater. I worked with the late, great, Bob Klein on the Oral History Collection at the JFK Library and became involved with the start-up of the Archive at AU, at his request. I have been to Suitland, MD to look at the federal records store there. I am familiar with the Smithsonian collection of Peace Corps records from the 1970s. I am familiar with the Library of Congress Peace Corps Bibliography. I also visited there once and got lost in the tunnels and practically had to be rescued by a very helpful young teenage volunteer. These important collections are scattered, are not easily accessible, are incomplete and are only a fraction of the work that is “out there.”
Most importantly, I have been fortunate enough to be able to blog, here, on the topic of Peace Corps: Public Records.
I, as you all do, read the book reviews, the essays and the resumes of the authors, here. I am awe struck by the talent and the experience represented in the Peace Corps community by these authors. My idea of a Peace Corps Library; public, independent, and adequately funded, with a professional staff, a RPCV advisory committee, an Internet presence and a
physical location, is to bring all this history together to promote Peace Corps and to make valid research possible.
To your specific concerns, Rex.
1) John Turnbull spoke of a location in the heartland, not I. Rex, take it up with Turnbull.
2) I should have made a distinction between “government control” and policies made by politically elected administrations.
Peace Corps is a political animal. The Director, Deputy Director, and some 30 Schedule C appointees all change with presidential elections. Each Director has the right to establish policy governing how or if protecting and preserving Peace Corps history will be a priority or even an activity of that Director’s administration. That is why I argued for a Peace Corps Library independent of the Peace Corps agency.
3) Government archives such as the National Archives, the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress and the Presidential Libraries are all publicly funded, but they are largely independent of the changes brought about by presidential elections. The National Archives is a special case. The National Archivist is a political appointee and does have the ultimate authority to decide which federal records will be preserved and which will be destroyed. Most all the records in the NARA Peace Corps Record Group are administrative records, they are not the reports written by serving Peace Corps Volunteers during their service.
Each one of the institutions that I mentioned do have their own guidelines on what they will accept and how they will describe their collections and how they will be accessed. That is the kind of institution I visualize for the Peace Corps Library. However, I would like the ONLY priority of the Peace Corps Library to be preserving the history and the actual work of Peace Corps, There is no institution today that has the history of Peace Corps has its first priority. NONE.
4) I agree that a digitalized Peace Corps collection on the Internet would be invaluable. i would welcome your expertise in how that might be accomplished. Your assumption, I think, is that all the records are already available for digitalization. I don’t think so. I argue the first task of the professional Peace Corps Library staff would be to find all the records, most importantly, the records written by Peace Corps Volunteers during their service. Digitalization would have to come later.
If only what is available now is digitalized, it would become the history of Peace Corps, written in cement and not comprehensive and not even accurate. In my opinion, it would be a disaster. There is a presumption that host country site histories and histories of Peace Corps programs in host countries exist. I have not found that to be true. I think a coordinated effort to find what RPCVs have would help to create such histories.
5) Your statement here is important:” A digitized Peace Corps collection would be far more useful and accessible. Even currently serving PCVs and staff would be able to access it for background research on Peace Corps programs in their countries.” Peace Corps Washington does have an intranet program called PCLive. It is accessible to serving Volunteers who can share experiences, etc. I think that is great. It is not accessible to the public. Originally, it was going to be accessible to RPCVs in 2015, now the date is tentatively set at 2018.
6) Peace Corps books are very important. Marian Haley Beil has an annotated bibliography that is, I think, more comprehensive that the LOC, and is updated. The Library of Congress Bibliography is very important, too, of course.
As for the physical location, I think it would be multipurpose and would promote the Peace Corps as well as research.
Clarification: The Suitland facility is not a store, it is a storage facility for federal records. After a certain period of time, those records are either destroyed or sent to the National Archives to be preserved. The final determination of which records are preserved is the decision of the National Archivist.
Thank you, Joanne, for the clarifications. Wow, you served in Colombia in 1963–65! You were there for the founding of the FARC, which finally has decided to lay down its arms.
Indeed, it was not you advocating for a Peace Corps library isolated in a heartland city. You mentioned that it has to have a separate physical location, but without specifying where that might be. It’s the all-encompassing scope of your grand Peace Corps library proposal that seems especially unrealistic. You want a special, stand-alone, government legislated and funded library housing not only Peace Corps books and resources available in other well-established institutions, but also a museum, a repository for donated unpublished letters home of RPCVs, a coffee shop, a bookstore, et cetera. And all of this has to be independent of the Peace Corps and government interference, yet with “constant funding” from Congress. (It’s unclear to me why a library would want to collect the unpublished letters home of RPCVs, with the possible exception of someone like Paul Theroux.)
It seems far more practical to me to focus on creating a Peace Corps digital collection. The JFK Library has taken a step in that direction, but, as you pointed out, it’s limited to JFK’s role. You stated: “Your assumption, I think, is that all the records are already available for digitization.” It’s unclear why you think I assume that to be the case, because I don’t. A Peace Corps digital collection would necessarily have to be highly selective in what can be digitized, and the content would depend in part on the Peace Corps resources available in a particular institution, be at American University the Internet Archive, the Library of Congress, or the National Archives. For example, the Internet Archive is especially strong on foreign language education of PCVs.
You have impressive knowledge of the scope of the various Peace Corps collections, whereas I’m familiar only with some of the Peace Corps-related books in the Library of Congress collections. Like the National Archives, the Library of Congress has many uncopyrighted U.S. Government volumes related to the creation, history, funding, and management of the Peace Corps. LOC also has Peace Corps-related material in its various collections of books, journals, videos, photographs, et cetera. It would take a lot of time, effort, and funding to dig out relevant material for a Peace Corps digital collection. By the way, you also stated that, “The items archived in public institutions may be considered in the public domain.” This is not at all the case. Most of these items are copyrighted. Copyright has not prevented Google from digitizing untold numbers of copyrighted books. However, copyright would limit what a U.S. Government institution like the National Archives or the Library of Congress could digitize.
Keep up the good work!
Thank you, Rex. It would be really helpful for me to know when you served in Bolivia. Also, I am not sure what your role was at the Library of Congress. Could you explain. If I had a better context for what you are saying, my replies might be easier to frame and maybe, just, maybe easier to understand.
This is what I wrote about the actual library, I would like to see:
“The materials, books, documents, memorabilia and electronic items are scattered all over. Some are in the public domain; some are in private or public university collections. Most of the documents from Peace Corps’ first decades are hard copy and have not been digitalized. The expertise of a professional Librarian Research staff is necessary to locate all of the items, to create a catalog system and to work to make these items accessible, even if they remain in the physical possession of the different institutions.”
“I also then listed the important archives about which I knew, but the list is certainly not complete. This is what I wrote:
“Professional Librarians will have the skill to coordinate with Librarians and Archivists in all these important places.”
I think a Peace Corps library would not duplicate or eliminate any other collections, rather enhance them.
There is one area where you and I are in clear disagreement. You wrote: (“It’s unclear to me why a library would want to collect the unpublished letters home of RPCVs, with the possible exception of someone like Paul Theroux.”) I believe that it is precisely the letters,(published or unpublished) the site records, the observations of serving Volunteers that is the history of the Peace Corps. A historical record has to be complete and chronologically. A archive must have as complete a record as possible if valid research is to be done. Peace Corps history is the collected work of Volunteers. That is a priority for me. Such a record would, of course, be complemented by books, administrative records, etc.
I believe that the first task of the professional staff would be to create a database of all the known Peace Corps records. Sorting such a database by date, or country, or program, would in and of itself create a historical structure for Peace Corps. I agree it would be a huge undertaking. It would also, I would hope,
RPCVs to contribute their own materials or observations to “fill in the gaps.”
As for a physical location and a coffee shop, and all those multi facilities, my proposal was to forward the Third Goal: To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans
This goes behind just research, which, I agree, is extremely important. I believe that all of these factors, together, would have a synergetic impact.
I have been reading these comments and waiting for Phyllis Noble to check-in with her comments. She is something of an authority on the materials at Boston’s JFK Library. Should Georgianna Shine McGuire (from my Ghana I group and who lives in the D.C. area) be a reader of this (I don’t know if it could be dubbed a blog-site) and to whom I look and listen, I wonder what her thoughts are regarding these matters. This is a bigger matter than I can enter into, maybe could ever once had . I honor all of you who are concerning themselves on our behalf and thank you for all you are doing. This is OUR PC December.
I will email links to the Proposals to Phyllis and let her know that you would welcome her comments, as would I.
I don’t know Georgianna Shine McGuire, perhaps you are in contact with her, and could invite her comments.
John Turnbull here, with some thoughts;
I was the one to suggest first that a PC library might reflect the American People, and therefore be located somewhere other than in the middle of Washington DC, in government offices, with materials subject to government doctoring, and even destruction, should such an administration appear, anxious to rewrite or manipulate history.
Anybody thinking that government rewriting of history and destruction of evidence couldn’t happen should first examine the post-Vietnam War rewriting, probably to avoid indictment for war crimes, and second, the astounding affair following the assassination of Pres Kennedy, destroying/losing/faking evidence, ignoring facts, and not only rewriting history, but actually watching as all the critical witnesses were conveniently murdered. Lloyds of London calculated the odds of just the latter happening, at 3000:1. An astounding mathematical fact like that was conveniently ignored. I won’t get into the colossal inconsistences and questions surrounding the 9-11 tragedy. So, nobody should be so facile as to maintain it can’t happen. Admittedly, for something like the Peace Corps it’s far less likely.
I was similarly shocked to see the statement (this again Mr Hudson) asking if anybody would be interested in the personal accounts of individual PCVs, other than someone like Paul Theroux (whom I knew personally). Why was the late Bob Kline so interested in recording all those personal recollections of PCVs ? This at a time when the upcoming PBS documentary on the Civil War headlined ‘What did a Civil War soldier really think ?” Never mind what is the appropriate response to some of the outlandish things coming from the Pres-elect. I still have trouble wondering if I read that right. I would be interested in learning exactly WHAT is the professional background of a person able to say something like that. My apologies if this sounds contentious.
In response to Joanne R’s enquiry, yes I still have a lot of personal letters from those early days in Ghana — and later in Malawi.
Since I precipitated this reaction with my location suggestion (and only a suggestion to consider) , I should add that, in the spirit of brainstorming, I could be satisfied with a library established at American University, or Library of Congress, if all the rest of the components and requirements can be met. Probably sufficient safeguards exist.
I would agree with the assertion that asking for Federal Gov’t funding of something which would be distinctly subtracted from the same Fed Gov’t supervision probably isn’t going to fly. I continue to see merit in philanthropic financial support, and from my own experience, the offer of private matching often inspires generosity by Congressmen.
I can understand why John C’s overtures to the present PC Director fell flat. I’m reminded of an earlier situation where the Post Office eliminated Humanitarian Surface Shipping, the means by which so many PCV teachers had established libraries and textbook programs at their schools, and rural health clinics had been equipped. Before the consequences of this were even understood fully, the PC Agency announced that whatever the cost to rectify the need, it wasn’t coming out of THEIR budget ! Even the Post Office was more sympathetic than that ! Finally, we determined that the need was about $2 million per annum. I remember talking to the late Steward Udall about what we could do. Stewart, the last of the Kennedy cabinet, was a great admirer of the Peace Corps, and it’s volunteers. He took a look at the arithmetic, and what was being lost, and said “Has it really come to this ?? ” I think the same thought popped into both our heads: “Thank God John Kennedy isn’t here to see this.” JAT
Regarding Mr. Turnbull’s state of shock over my questioning why a publically funded library would want to collect the unpublished letters home of PCVs, he misconstrued what I wrote by omitting “unpublished.” I wrote: “unpublished letters home.” He overlooks the difference between published and unpublished letters. If a PCV’s letters home merit publication, then it’s my personal opinion that the RPCV should try to publish them or use them for an account of his/her Peace Corps experience rather than simply dump them on a library willing to collect such letters. Mr. Turnbull ludicrously equates the letters home of Peace Corps volunteers with those of soldiers serving in the Civil War.
Mr. Turnbull also conflates his misquote with his wrongheaded assumption that I see no value in the personal accounts of RPCVs. For his information, I prepared annotated bibliographies of many books on the Peace Corps experience. It is available online at http://www.loc.gov/peacecorps. The more detailed PDF version can be downloaded at this site.
Thank you to John Turnbull, David Day, Rex Hudson, and Edward Mycue for your thoughtful comments, and yes, criticisms.
Let me summarize my thoughts.
The purpose of a Peace Corps Library would be to “To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans” by
-Facilitating research by the creation of a master database describing all the Peace Corps materials and their location and coordinating with existing archives and all other sources (RPCV websites, etc) to enhance the opportunities for valid research and to highlight the “gaps” in the Peace Corps historical record, with a view to finding ways to “close the gaps”
-Providing a reference librarian so that errors and ignorance about Peace Corps operation, structure and history could be addressed
-Creating a public place for the general public, as well as the Peace Corps community to gather, to learn from exhibits,including books and videos, to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans
Such a space should include, of course, a shop where Peace Corps books could be purchased and the arts and crafts of
people all over the world could also be sold.
Many questions have been raised about funding, location, and “independence” of such a Library. I think there is an
existing model that might well serve the design for a Peace Corps Library, and that is the Presidential Libraries.
The Presidential Libraries have only one focus and that is to protect and promote the administration of each President.
Each Presidential Library is public, publicly funded, ,managed by the National Archives and Records Administration, but secure from the kind of “government control” that would destroy records or manipulate Presidential history.
The Peace Corps Library would have one focus and that would be advancing the Peace Corps Third Goal. Other libraries, institutions and universities have multiple responsibilities. Each Presidential library, although publicly funded also has private Foundations that contribute financially to these Libraries. All the Presidential Libraries have exhibits, conferences, gathering places, stores and I am sure, you can find a cup of coffee, although in LBJ’s Texas, it might be “sweet tea.
The question too has been raised about how could legislation ever be passed to create such a Peace Corps Library. I think that is so legitimate. I do think that Congress might be persuaded to fund a research grant to create the master database.
From that, might flow support for such a Library.
Thank you so much for everyone who read and commented. Let us continue.
I hear in the wind long-gone voices who knew the language of flowers, tasted bitter roots, hoped, placed stone upon stone, built an order, blessed the wild beauty of this place.
Can you hear in the wind whispers, crusts of soul-insulted soul, scattered ages, decided, gone yellow, thin?
I hear in the wind those old sorrows in new voices, undefeated desires, and the muffled advent of something I can only define as bright, new angels.
Can you hear in the wind independent people who never depart, have no time for friends, who want to go and want to stay and never decide in time?
I hear in the wind old phantoms and the swirl of the released mustardstar and the cry of innocence. It is soon September.
Telephone call, a summary, a sea change.
The wheel is round and childhood desire turns life’s wheels, these large hoops, propelling them with sticks under the tall park elm trees.
Voices live here without forgetting the way back under the surface of consciousness, the bungled aspirations, of leprosy as a model, and grim ire. Life pushes, photography wins over time. Over the mind brown shale. This is December.
It is time; nothing waits. It is soon and nothing waits. It is late and nothing waits.
TO Joanne R: John Turnbull here. I’m not about to quarrel with all the inuendo Mr Hudson has made of one or two sentences addressing the very words he wrote. If he meant to say MORE, he should have, instead of all of us left guessing what’s in his mind.
His assumptions seem to get only worse, with the foolish idea that a first-hand account by a PCV has historic value only if it has been published. Talk about elitism ! ! ! HE, or some publisher with a profit motive, will decide what is important to history, and all the rest goes in the trash ? And what to make of the RPCV who self-publishes ? More valuable than someone else’s ? If INSIGHT is what is historically valuable, what really is the difference between a Civil War soldier’s first-hand impressions of that war, and a PCV ‘s first-hand impressions of his PC service, and what he or she saw ? If military experience about military events is now suddenly what matters, then let’s take a look, put our personal records on the table, and do some comparisons.
As for the snide inuendo the the entire Heartland of America is simply “‘nowhere and nothing”, let this “expert” go to places like the University of Minnesota, University of Iowa, Iowa State, University of Illinois, University of Colorado, and THEN come back and tell us that it’s all s___. And tell us that the huge numbers of PC Volunteers who come from these centers of learning, they’re s____. too. I’m through with this quarrel.
Joanne, on the larger question, let me leave with a few final thoughts:
1. You asked where I, and Ghana-3 Geology had trained. It was the Univ of Oklahoma, together with a group of nurses and aggies headed for Tunisia. I’m sure the university has retained the records, as many of the faculty were involved. Being a very early project, there was a LOT of uncertainty about exactly what the selection (or de-selection) criteria should be. I later did an MS degree at OU, and had the opportunity, post-service, to talk to several of the same faculty who had had to decide which of us went and who did not. I think we all know today that they made some mistakes, and we understand why.
2. In the event the library you envision should want the early Latin American project records held by the University of New Mexico, I am certain the university will WANT to cooperate. As an alumnus of the place, I can help, if need be.
Incidently, the Univ of New Mexico, whilst those early training projects are long past,, has continued to support our local geographic RPCV group, in New Mexico and S Colorado, has graciously assisted in operating our ListServ through it’s IT Dept,, and probably has decades of e-mail postings covering all sorts of Third Goal activities organized by RPCVs, some expectable, and some rather surprising. It’s a whole additional historic insight, pursuant to the original PC enabling act in 1961, which articulated the Third Goal. I imagine many RPCV associations have a wealth of such information. Unpublished !
3. With regard to obtaining records held by universities and other entities which have conducted Peace Corps project training, on contract from the Agency, and alluding to the question of public domain, my recollection (citing Title 41. CFR) each Federal agency includes a set of General Provisions in its contracts, and amongst them is a proviso that the government retains access to, and use of all such records relating to the contract project. I’m aure the PC Office of General Counsel is well aware of this. What it means is that the Peace Corps Agency has the legal right to these records, for whatever use it deems necessary, and can clear the way for obtaining them. I don’t believe any reputable university would have a problem with this in any event, and probably would welcome the opportunity to cooperate. Nor can I imagine the current PC management would have a problem, for the larger purposes here.
4. In the event you see merit in my expanded vision for an Advisory Committee (see earlier message) as a veteran of the first technical project to be fielded by the PC, and with connexions to volunteers from several later ones, I would be honored to serve on a sub-committee, AND have some dynamite nominees I can suggest. It may be that the REAL contribution of such an advisory committee is sooner, rather than later, with library science and legal counsel, in a moderated setting, working through all the obstacles to creating such a library.
5. In the event you want to gain access to the records about the role of early PC technical projects in the larger process of development, the Geological Society of America has published a lot of that in their proceedings from a decade back. I can help with that, if need be.
6. Now, being finished from this public forum, if there are questions I can answer, or earlier ideas to expand on, don’t hesitate to contact me. John Coyne, of course, has my personal e-mail address, and I answer all enquiries. Good luck, Joanne. JAT
Thank you, John. UNM has a wonderful collection of training documents from the years when Peace Corps/Community Action Center was there in their South West Research Archives. I believe that Colombia 1’s John Arango was the creator and head. The list of Documents is on line. I don’t know how many have been digitalized, but it is a great archive.
My son is an OU graduate and I visited there about 16 years ago. OU’s Library has records from “Peace Pipe” a Peace Corps project as well as other War on Poverty project. I don’t recall that they had retained other Peace Corps training documents.
Only about 1% to 2% of all federal records are ultimately preserved and archived at the National Archives and Records Administration.
I do not want to misrepresent myself. I have an idea and a webpage on this site, thanks to the generosity of John Coyne and Marian Haley Beil. So far, the proposal has not gotten any farther. However, I appreciate your suggestions and your offers and I will keep everyone posted, if more were to happen.
Thank you Joanne Roll for chairing this discussion. You truly deserve some sort of peace prize.
Hello Joanne R. I thought I was finished on this public web-site. But wanted to second E Mycue’s compliment and thank-you. It sounds like this is a good idea which has hit a dead-end. I wonder if you/we could persuade the PC Agency and/or the NPCA to feature this, and send it out for information. Maybe generate some wider interest — enough to maybe assemble a steering committee. Once having done so, maybe create a mini ListServ for interested parties, to keep it more private.
Sorry to hear no training records for OU are available for our earlier training groups. I’ll see what I can find. The problem, of course, is that probably all of the faculty at that time (early ’63) are deceased. Also a consideration in general, as all the early volunteers (e.g. Bob Klein) are now elderly, and passing on.
Since I won’t be watching this web-site much anymore, I will ask John Coyne to forward my personal e-mail address to you, in the event you want to get in touch for any reason. Best personal regards, John Turnbull NMPCA Ghana-3 Geology + Nyasaland/Malawi-2 Geology Assignment, Lower Canoncito, New Mexico
Not a day goes by that someone more falters. Do you remember your Tennyson and his poem ULYSSES? It is a birdgage of trills into that territory. It has 70+ lines, but here are few, and you can gooble-up the rest if you are interested.
Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Of the 70+ lines of Tennyson’s ULYSSES poem, we from the 20th and even now 21st centuries remember lines here and there (even if we don’t recall reading it, maybe in a class) that may appeal to us now or are somehow bedded in the our received language(s) as we also perhaps recall and even use bits here and there of comments from Shakespeare without recalling where they might come from originally, maybe.
Usually, from Alfred Tennyson’s poem, what I recall are a dozen or so lines, but my seniors even in old age could recite the whole poem as if mentally choreographed. Here are some dozen and a half lines that come easily easily to me (and then I have to refresh myself for, or is it ‘on’?) :
I AM A PART OF ALL THAT I HAVE MET….
HE WORKS HIS WORK, I MINE. (about Ulysses’ son, Telemachus)
DEATH CLOSES ALL: BUT SOMETHING ERE THE END,
SOME WORK OF NOBLE NOTE, MAY YET BE DONE….
COME MY FRIENDS
‘T IS NOT TOO LATE TO SEEK A NEWER WORLD.
FOR MY PURPOSE HOLDS
TO SAIL BEYOND THE SUNSET, AND THE BATHS
OF ALL THE WESTERN STARS, UNTIL i DIE.
IT MAY BE THAT THE GULFS WILL WASH US DOWN:
IT MAY BE WE SHALL TOUCH THE HAPPY ISLES,
AND SEE THE GREAT ACHILLES, WHOM WE KNEW.
THO’ MUCH IS TAKEN, MUCH ABIDES; AND THO’
WE ARE NOT NOW THAT STRENGTH WHICH IN OLD DAYS
MOVED EARTH AND HEAVEN, THAT WHICH WE ARE, WE ARE;
ONE EQUAL TEMPER OF HEROIC HEARTS,
MADE WEAK BY TIME AND FATE, BUT STRONG IN WILL
TO STRIVE, TO SEEK, TO FIND, AND NOT TO YIELD.
We don’t write like the big T(ennyson) nor the big S(hakespeare) — nor spell and punctuate their ways, but we still like them.
Here is a poem of mine, shorter by 2 dozen lines, focusing on supposed musings of voyagers who stayed:
Page 1 of 3
© Edward Mycue
TELLING THE ODYSSEY
Subdued stony seas far-off straggling
assembled sailors awakened from steam-
ing debris of lost time at midnight,
returned to thresholds to ancient
Ithakan ways searching, wisps of Circe
hiding in their hair remembering stark
desolation of illimitable worlds
destinations circumnavigating circumstance,
horizons swirling in migratory constant
chaos. Sail-sightings, reefs, abandon-
ings, day-doggedness, successive
repulsions and desires, showers, fore-
shores, fresh food, trifles, masks of
crude cleverness, acid wares – all
congealed massively into mind-shattering
mosaics. Like a magic cultural increment
theirs became marvelous oral histories
of impulses shrouded in mists, of Hell-
enized meridians whetted by shivering
page 2 of 3
© Edward Mycue
shifting corridors of waves — live
novel tales confided in white wandering
versions illuminated with isolated ape
skulls, with awkward wrath-winged creatures
long since vanished, of dud plans, wiles,
vast swamps of space, of flights from
worship and from warning. They told of
deductions, tainted motives, strange and
secret islands, Cos gossamer, deaths,
the bleeding amaranthe, the stimulating
siege of Troy. As they retraversed these
tropics, much must have been transmuted.
At how many firesides, how many families
manned again those bottoms ballasting
whole evenings with the waitings and re-
tracings, wild rituals? How was the
bombast balanced? Who heard it out with myth-
invoking mind? Mitigating fears with awe
what salted tongues and with what shrugging,
while eyes widened, embellished further
page 3 of 3 pages
© Edward Mycue
the way they passed it on through Homer?
And in late, hot vatic evening hours
which of them recalling ruminated: how
they had not listened to the warning so
that they dwelt in the strong vessel
of homelessness so long seeking the un-
discovered world? Of all the voyagers
in Ithaka who told their odyssey, who
was it who sat then guessing partially
wondering into dawn.
© Copyright Edward Mycue