David Kelley Receives ASHSS Grant

David Kelley was awarded the 2021 Advancing Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences for his new project The Book of the Dead. Kelley’s project is inspired by the American poet, Muriel Rukeyser’s poem, The Book of the Dead, which she wrote in 1938 about the Hawks Nest Tunnel industrial disaster in West Virginia, which left nearly 1000 miners dead from silicosis. Rukeyser visited victims of the incident and their families, and directly appropriated text from interviews, letters, and trials from the case. Her experimental poem is a radical break from traditional lyrical Modernist poetry of the time. Kelley’s recent works in Inner Mongolia and Gansu, China, The Tally and Rare Earth Image Bank, use a similar hybrid documentary approach to represent the intersection of labor, extraction, global capital, and digital imaging. For this new project Kelley will draw on Rukeyser’s poetry, personal biography, and experimental writing style, and her commitment to labor, and environmental and social justice. 


Down coasts of taken countries, mastery,
discovery at one hand, and at the other
               frontiers and forests,


fanatic cruel legend at our back and
speeding ahead the red and open west,
               and this our region,


desire, field, beginning.    Name and road,
communication to these many men,
as epilogue, seeds of unending love.


Muriel Rukeyser,” from The Book of the Dead: The Book of the Dead" from The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser.  Copyright © 2006 by Muriel Rukeyser