Essays and poems
The O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library at the University of St. Thomas will host a book-signing and reading for author James Silas Rogers, director of the university’s Center for Irish Studies, at noon Wednesday, May 7.
All are welcome. The event will be held in the O’Shaughnessy Room on the main floor of the library, located on the university’s St. Paul campus.
Northern Orchards consists of six first-person reflective essays concerning burial grounds in Minnesota, and a dozen poems. Sites discussed in the essays include the Old Pioneer Cemetery on Cedar and Lake in Minneapolis and the Acacia Park Cemetery in Mendota Heights, which is located atop a Native American burial ground.
Rogers’ Northern Orchards: Places Near the Dead, will be published May 1 by North Star Press of St. Cloud.
Four of the essays have appeared earlier in national publications, including South Dakota Review; New Letters; Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley; and ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment.
In addition, the book includes a dozen black-and-white photographs taken by the late David Tigan, who died in 2011. Tigan’s widow, Barbara, works in St. Thomas’ Development Office.
“I’ve been working on this collection since 1998,” says Rogers, “and I see it as part of my larger fascination with the whole idea of what gives meaning to places, and how memory is an essential part of who we are as human beings.
“As I write in the introduction, ‘I find nothing macabre in visiting, hanging around in, or writing about cemeteries; on the contrary, I find it ennobling.’
“Not surprisingly, the book is full of Irish references even though none of the places described is in Ireland. The truth is that I see this project as very much on a continuum with my interest in Irish Studies – in both cases, it’s about what makes a place special.”
Rogers, 61, of St. Paul, has been managing director or director of St. Thomas’ Center for Irish Studies since the center’s founding in 1996. For the past nine years he has edited its quarterly journal of Irish studies, New Hibernia Review, considered a “journal of record” for Irish studies scholars and the only Irish studies quarterly in North America.
He began his professional career in Irish studies with the Irish American Cultural Institute in 1983. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Irish studies from Metropolitan State University and a Master of Arts in English from St. Thomas. He has served as president of the American Conference for Irish Studies and in 2011 received the Curtin-Conway Award from the Minnesota Irish Fair.
Rogers is the author of a chapbook of poems, Sundogs, and has published and lectured widely on Irish-American literature and culture. Last year, his essay “Outside Metaphor” in Ruminate magazine (not included in the book) was named to the “notable” list in the Best American Essays volume published by Houghton Mifflin.