Trafficke: An Autobiography is a way of
thinking about survival and power, including the power of literacy. Its
story is that of one family from the 6th through the 19th centuries. It
begins with the history and mythology of Clan Gregor, in the central Highlands
of Scotland, who lost their lands and were persecuted almost to extinction
by the more powerful Clan Campbell. The name MacGregor was proscribed in
1603: those who would not renounce it were hunted down and killed, or transported.
The story then narrows to one man, Alexander McGruder (sometimes MacGregor,
later Magruder), transported to Maryland in the 1650s
I have called this work mixed-genre: nonfiction, poetry, and collage. Others have called it historical fiction. It is fiction to the extent that whatever we know about the past is collaged from scraps, and to the extent that the glue is our own need. Clan Gregor is especially tricky, bound up as it is with the literary origins of Romanticism in English--even MacPherson’s source texts for his semi-fabricated Ossianic poems were collected from oral tradition by 16th c. MacGregors. Facts being often mythologized in this case, claiming the story is factual doesn’t help much.
Factuality is also an issue of Trafficke’s form.
Words and phrases are a kind of aural fact, or image, affecting me physically
as well as mentally, and those affects are part of what I know about my
“subject”. So, while collage is mimetic of the process of reading
historical texts, equally important to me is that the phrases are actual
survivors, conduits of sensual as well as narrative information. Trafficke
has upwards of 200 sources, many of which show through and make noise in
its pages. Making noise, even disruption, is a kind of narrative strategy.
I take as one model the Scottish ballad, which, among other things, tells
an often quite whopping story by means of mosaic, even sculptural effects,
of repetition and intertextual
Trafficke is comprised of two long sections, “Proscribe”
and “Heath,” concentrating,
Trafficke: An Autobiography is now seeking a publisher.
"Song Book of the Pillagers," a section of "Proscribe," as published by The Literary Review in a special Scottish issue and republished on their web site.
The opening pages of "Old-Fields," a section of "Heath," as published by Phoebe & republished on the website of DCAC (The Washington, D.C., Arts Center).
"An Excerpt from Heath" (the remainder of "Old-Fields") as published by Green Mountains Review in their Literary Ethnography issue & republished on their web site. Nominated by GMR for a Pushcart Prize in nonfiction. Part of this piece is available on line at WritersRegister.com.
"An Excerpt from Heath" (a section now titled "In the Stranger's Land") as published by Quarter After Eight & republished on their web site. Winner of the QAE 1999 Prose Prize judged by Douglas Messerli.
"Transport" as published by The Indiana Review.