For the past six weeks I have been researching the Denton family collection at the Wellesley Historical Society. The collection is immense and so, unfortunately, I was not able to view all the documents related to William Denton in detail. That is a task that would take a significantly longer time commitment, because the Dentons kept seemingly every piece of paper and small object related to their lives: correspondence, diaries, artefacts, slides, business and legal documents and even posters and tickets from William Denton’s lectures.
I have had expected and unexpected finds while trying to create a fuller picture of Denton’s life. Among the documents I found were Alfred Deakin’s letters to William Denton (letters from Denton to Deakin are with the Papers of Alfred Deakin at the National Library of Australia), allowing me a clearer sense of their relationship and common interests. Of course, there may still be missing correspondence and, on top of that, their handwriting can be difficult to decode.
Read Researching at the Wellesley Historical Society
At my mid-candidature review, where I presented on my PhD progress, I was asked why I had chosen William Denton as the subject of my biographical poetry.
A decade ago, when I was collecting books on early parapsychology and psychical research (a hobby of mine at the time), I found William and Elizabeth Denton’s Nature’s Secrets. This is a UK version of the first volume of The Soul of Things, Denton's three-volume work on psychometry, though this version is special as it was “Edited with an introduction by a clergyman of the Church of England”.
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Primarily, my project The Code of Things is researching the differences in the representation of a person in biographical poetry across media. This of course has methodological implications: representing a person in biographical poetry requires an approach that takes historical information and reinterprets it as poetry.
In Dorothy Livesay’s essay The Documentary Poem: A Canadian Genre she writes that documentary poetry is “a conscious attempt to create a dialectic between the objective facts and subjective feelings of the poet”. And while I think there are differences between biographical poetry and documentary poetry, I still find Livesay’s suggested dialectic to be at the centre of both kinds of poetry.
Read Speculative Computing as Methodology