A text from Sheila Packa’s new book Night Train Red Dust: Poems of the Iron Range.
These poems are about the Iron Range in Minnesota, the Vermilion Trail, and they are stories of travel and derailment about mining, radical politics, unionizing, accordion music and strong women. The book brings together history, geology and the community of people with iron in their veins.
Video artist and cellist Kathy McTavish, Packa’s regular collaborator, describes this as “a screen recording of a database driven web film,” and Packa talks about how that intersects with her writing style in a post at her blog:
I strive to re-create the flows of the northeastern Minnesota landscape, and I borrow metaphors that express the pattern of change in individual stories and narrative poems: the erosions, floods, migrations, lightning strikes, industrialization, excavation, mining, roads, and harbors. Night Train Red Dust will become part of a new transmedia media project, and I can’t wait to get started! […]
My Geology is a poem that taught me how powerful is our landscape. I placed it first in my book, Night Train Red Dust. The places where we walk enter into us; in my case, as a child, I walked across the vein of iron and taconite on the Iron Range. There is an ASCII art image behind the video in My Geology that rotates on a near/far axis, evoking a map or contract or a train car. In this section, numbers were entered into the input box, and they cascade like taconite down a chute into the hold of a freighter. […] The music used found sound (a soprano sax, both notes and the musician blowing air through the instrument) and cello by Kathy McTavish.
I’ve also been encountering the text incrementally in a dedicated Twitter feed, @nighttrainred — another example of Packa and McTavish’s interest in innovative technological reproductions of “flows.”