Kitchen Table Poetics:
Maid Margaret Maher and Her Poet Emily Dickinson
by Aífe Murray

Aífe Murray: Artist's Statement

Art of Service: March 28-June 1, Amherst, MA

Map of Margaret Maher's Amherst

Pantry Draw-er

Pantry Draw-er, detail. Mixed media installation (1996)

This is a story of silence and voice, told by Aífe Murray in poetry, prose, scholarly essay, and visual and public art. It takes as its emblematic figures, Margaret Maher, an Irish immigrant domestic worker, and her employer, elite Yankee poet Emily Dickinson. Foregrounding the background of the Dickinson story, Murray looks behind the "volume" of Dickinson's work to the lives of the women and men who made that amplification possible and who extended the poet's literary range and human sympathies. Aífe Murray's scholarly research reveals a meaningful relationship between the presence of servants and the volume and nature of Dickinson's literary work. By rendering visible and audible that which has been defaced from history, Murray's multi-disciplinary project describes the personal and linguistic exchange between Dickinson and Maher (and other English, Irish and African American servants) to suggest formative origins to an emerging American poetics from the multiplicity of the nation's languages and dialects.

Poet Susan Howe said "trust the place to form the voice." In an attempt to re-locate the place of her voice, Aífe Murray illuminates the social production of American art, what household maintenance and creative activity commonly share, and the "materials" with which our literary heritage is constructed.

Contents of this web site © 1997 by Aífe Murray. This web site was created by D. Marmaluk and R. Bevis for the benefit of students, teachers, and scholars of Emily Dickinson and 19th Century Studies. This web site will be maintained until June 1, 1997.