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Literature Major Immersed in Life of Central Valley Poet

November 24, 2008


Literature Major Immersed in Life of Central Valley Poet

When Kacy Marume first sat in a class on the Great Depression taught by
literatureprofessor
Jan Goggansand
historyprofessor
Sean Malloy, she never dreamed she’d end up immersed in a related
researchproject.

But now the UC Merced
senior, who is majoring in literature and American studies, spends much of her available time poring over the literary estate of Wilma McDaniel. One of the Central Valley’s most prolific poets, McDaniel’s poems depict life and events in the area from 1936 to 2006. The
Leo & Dottie Kolligian Libraryrecently acquired the collection from McDaniel’s relatives.

“It’s such a unique experience for an undergraduate,” said Marume, who hails from San Diego. “Where else could I get my hands on such a treasure of published works and notes?”

“Treasure” is exactly how Goggans refers to the acquisition. She estimates that McDaniel published about 50 small books of poetry in her lifetime and is excited by the prospect of diving into the collection of completed works as well as the handwritten notes and revisions.

“One of the things that makes the collection extraordinary in my eyes is that it gives us the chance to do critical literary work, and to look quite seriously at her process. To be able to trace the course of how a poem developed in her hands is to watch a poem take shape,” said Goggans.

While she emphasizes that “There are many other great, great Central Valley writers who are from here or write about the area,” Goggans celebrates the opportunity to embrace a complete collection that is unique to the university’s vicinity and history. “Having this archive in the university’s possession provides a whole different level of scholarship.”

Marume’s job for the next academic year is to process the collection, which arrived at the library in 17 tubs, each jam-packed with books, magazines, documents, and shoeboxes full of index cards, all waiting to be identified, organized, cataloged, archived, preserved, digitized and stored.

“I’ve condensed everything to a single row of shelves,” Marume said, “and now I’m categorizing each piece. Wilma was very religious, so her collection of religious icons and pamphlets is a category in and of itself.”

Once Marume has finished her portion of cataloguing the collection, doors will open for student researchers in a variety of majors. The accessibility to McDaniel’s collection will be valuable to students of literature, history and even economics.

“She was funny,” Goggans said. “Some of her work is just plain funny. She has been anthologized as a “working class” poet and some of her work has an undercurrent of grief; she wrote about local people and their struggles.”

Marume agrees, admitting that she’s gained an intimate familiarity with the poet through the items she saved over the years.

“I think this is her mother’s purse,” Marume said as she handed over a worn handbag. “It’s filled with letters. Both her mother and sister were very influential in her life.”