Packing up

It’s the eve of my last day as a member of the faculty at Missouri University of Science & Technology. I’ve been packing up my office so that the new chair, Dr. Kristine Swenson, can move in. My family has lived in the same house for nearly 35 years, so I don’t have recent experiences of moving. I’d forgotten the reflections aroused by sorting and boxing papers, files, letters, books, manuscripts . . . a long list of types of items.

A good part of the things from my file cabinets will go to the university archives; a fair number will be left for Dr. Swenson to use. A small number, fewer than I’d expected, are coming home with me. Riffling through a folder of letters 25 or 30 years old is unsettling, partially because of the dust in them, more because of the memories of people and events. Much of my correspondence is with other writers, poets, editors, and teachers. These letters will go to the archives to be cataloged and will be available for scholarly research.

Part of the archives will be the issues of Christianity and Literature when I was poetry editor (1975-1983). Correspondence with the poets and my own records will also be there. When I first encountered C&L, it was a wire-stitched (stapled) newsletter with a lot of energy. I saw it go to perfect-binding and glossy paper. (Not that changes in format were my doing!)

I have had many books in my office; there are fewer now. I’ve been giving away books to colleagues, friends, students, and family members. Those that are left will go either to Reader’s Corner, the ones that that business will buy, to my library at home, or . . . I’m not sure where else, but certainly elsewhere.

My files, drafts of poems, and correspondence have been almost entirely electronic for twenty years. How do electronic files relate to archiving? Going through a mass of old email or document files would be less personal and engaging than digging out papers that I haven’t touched for years.