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Afterimage: Poems, and, Morning Glory: A story of family and culture in the garden

Benjamin R Vogt, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Afterimage is a collection of poems based mostly on black and white family photographs from the past two centuries, roughly 1870 to 1990. Many of the poems, particularly the first section, trace the immigration of a rural German Mennonite family from Russia to Kansas and Oklahoma in the 19th century, however, around half of the total poems relate the author’s personal experiences trying to establish various homes in suburban Minnesota, Ohio, and Nebraska in the late 20th century. By reimagining the story in these photographs—or remembering them from personal and interviewed accounts—a narrative begins to emerge of cultural integration and identification in America, specifically in the Great Plains and Midwest. ^ Morning Glory is part memoir, part cultural exploration on the history of gardening, and part environmental treatise. At the core of the book is the author’s time spent growing up gardening with his mother in Minnesota, how this has lead to them being closer in adulthood, and culminates in the discovery of the lineage of fear, distrust, and solitude within his family that he innately exhibits. This darker side of his mother’s family—of poverty, religious fundamentalism, and an abusive stepfather—is paralleled with an exploration of global culture in the natural world, specifically, through gardening. By looking at our attitudes toward nature, manifested by its exploitation, manipulation, and our artistic interpretation of it, he compares this outward struggle with our humanity to an inward struggle with loss, confusion, self-doubt, isolation, and longing. Our violence toward the planet comes from the same root as our violence toward ourselves. Many nature writers and critics—such as Michael Pollan, Jack Turner, and Terry Tempest Williams—suggest we need to recreate or find a metaphor that links culture to the natural world, that the answer to our ecological and social crises is to get more culture into our relation to the earth; through the personal story of family and the exploration of various religions, philosophies, literatures, and garden history, Morning Glory does just that. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Modern|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Vogt, Benjamin R, "Afterimage: Poems, and, Morning Glory: A story of family and culture in the garden" (2009). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3355633.