Civil War anthology has VCU connections

Sarah King
Contributing Writer

With the help of VCU professors and students, editors Martha Erwin and Kathleen DuVall have compiled an anthology of work by local writers and artists to explore Richmond’s relation to the Civil War in “Remapping Richmond’s Hallowed Ground.”

Several VCU professors, faculty and alumni contributed works to the anthology, including Dennis Danvers, a professor in the English department, Lea Marshall, the interim chair of the dance department, Bizhan Khodabandeh, the communications director for the Communications Art department, Amie Oliver, an adjunct professor in the interdisciplinary arts program, Howard Owen, a graduate of the Master’s English program, and Audrey Walls, a graduate of the MFA creative writing program.

“I hope this will help foster a more thoughtful response to our legacy as the capital of the Confederacy. People often mistakenly think that Richmond is mired in its racist past, but I haven’t found that to be true,” Danvers said. “Richmond is a city with an abundance of talented artists and writers, and this book celebrates this fact.”

Danvers said he also helped the editors reach out to likely contributors for the anthology. The book was self-published and printed in Petersburg, Va. this summer and they have since held several reading events at local Richmond bookstores.

Erwin conceived the project when she went for a walk on a slave trail a few years ago. The experience led her to write poem about it as soon as she came home. She said she and DuVall wrote the introduction together, and the call for proposal, read the manuscripts that came in and decided whether to accept or reject them, solicited and received art for the book, then designed and prepared the manuscript for publication. She said the project was a lot of work and took two years.

“It occurred to me that many Richmond artists — writers and visual artists — would have something to express about this aspect of Richmond’s history,” Erwin said.

Lea Marshall was one of those writers.

“I appreciated the editors’ interest in retelling, or relooking at Richmond’s Civil War history, which forms such a pervasive part of our physical and cultural landscape,” Marshall said.

The anthology includes a variety of writings, photography and art.

“It’s a fascinating range of work — poems, essays, stories, with beautiful drawings as well. I think it’s a successful anthology, and a valuable contribution to our local culture,” Marshall said.

Marshall said she hopes the book helps the Richmond community see more deeply into the horror of slavery and how that horror still underpins the present in ways acknowledged and unacknowledged.

Erwin agrees, and said she hopes the work makes Richmonders reflect on their shared history and how it affects their present and future.

“Fiction and poetry is a different lens through which to view that history,” Erwin said. “There are lots of scholarly articles, essays, and nonfiction books about it, but I don’t think there’s ever been a Richmond-based anthology of fiction and poetry and art on this topic.”

“Remapping Richmond’s Hallowed Ground” is available online and at Chop Suey Books at 2913 W. Cary St. for $16. 

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