Poetry News

Kristen Gallagher on Florida, the Social, the Ecological

By Harriet Staff
Kristen Gallagher, 85% True / minor ecologies, cover

At Dichtung Yammer, Kristen Gallagher talks to Daniel Lynch about her book, 85% True / minor ecologies (Skeleton Man Press, 2017). In composing the book, Gallagher traveled to over 30 towns in Florida, she explains, and wrote "over 200 pages of usable stuff, some of which had already been published." But the writer has had Florida as a subject for years, "in a sprawling, organic, non-goal-oriented way." More:

It all began in the summer of 2013, when I found myself in a strange situation in Central Florida, in Union Park — 30 minutes south of Sanford — which, at the time of my visit, also happened to be the location of the George Zimmerman trial. No surprise there, Sanford is the town where Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

When I arrived the trial had just begun. I was in Union Park checking on a childhood friend who’d been struggling with addictions to pills and alcohol, and found myself in a trailer in a very noticeably white/caucasian housing “community,” all very worked up discussing the details of the trial, and mostly sympathetic neither to Zimmerman nor Trayvon Martin, calling Zimmerman an idiot vigilante but also referring to Martin as a “known thug.” More strange, these towns—Sanford and Union Park—happen to form a geographical triangle with Eatonville, Florida, twenty minutes to the west, and the first all-black incorporated town in the US, founded by a group of people that included author Zora Neale Hurston’s family. Zora Neale Hurston, my first literary and feminist inspiration, a foundational hero to me, a shining example of a woman who strikes out her own territory—a black woman who values her culture, driving alone, town to town in the early- to mid-twentieth century, in her car she named Cherry, documenting labor conditions and capturing folk stories and song. She was the pirate-anthropologist I’d wanted to be since I first read her books at the age of twenty. There I was, at a real intersection.

So the work started with me thinking through race, stand your ground laws, poverty, community, history, culture, and addiction in Florida. However, like Zora, I began with the social but ended up in the ecological, because it turns out they cannot be separated.

Read on here.


Originally Published: July 12th, 2018