Brimming with ideas is important, but having a personal space to dedicate time and energy to develop, refine and turn those ideas into finished works can be a godsend. Both of these are now true for Rebecca Morgan Frank, the new Writer in Residence (WIR) at the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park (EHFOP).
Frank, a poet who lives in walking distance of Hemingway’s birthplace, 339 N. Oak Park Ave., has published four poetry collections, the latest, Oh You Robot Saints! in February this year. Poet Sean Singer said of the book, “The poems wonder if robots — mechanical ones and spiritual ones — mimic creation itself.” Frank’s Sometimes We’re All Living in a Foreign Country, published in 2017, has poems “voiced by perpetual outsiders searching for a sense of place.” Her other poetry collections are The Spokes of Venus and Little Murders Everywhere. She has also published poems in The New Yorker, The Guardian, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, and Academy of American Poets (poets.org) to name a few.
The EHFOP Writer in Residence program is a two-year term in which the writer has access to the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Museum’s attic writing space. The residency, which begins on July 15, will allow Frank to work on her next book.
“The wonderful attic writer’s room will provide me with space to work on several projects, including my fifth collection of poems, which revolves around histories and ideas of the built world, including failed and hostile architecture,” she said. “I can’t think of a more perfect workplace for reading and thinking about architecture and the spaces we inhabit than a landmark writer’s home.”
Frank will also be using the space to explore other art forms.
“I am also working with Chicago composer Eric Malmquist on a short opera based on a mysterious historical event here in Illinois,” she said. “An uninhabited Victorian house should provide a lot of inspiration for that project.”
The WIR also mentors Oak Park and River Forest High School seniors who were recognized in the Hemingway Foundation’s Scholarship writing contest their junior year. Another responsibility is to assist in developing educational programming, open to the community.
Frank said she plans to work with EHFOP Executive Director Keith Strom “on curating readings, as well as some performances that highlight poet and composer collaborations. My hope is that we will be able to partner with other literary organizations and local businesses, like our local gem The Book Table.”
The Hemingway Foundation also has an annual writing contest, Hemingway Shorts, which WIRs are involved with long term. The short story contest “is designed to capture new voices engaged in the creative writing process” and gives “new and emerging writers the opportunity to see their work published” according to the EHFOP website. Submitted works are reviewed by a panel that includes current and past WIRs.
The Writer in Residence program was reintroduced in 2012. Frank is the sixth writer to “serve as an ambassador for the foundation” since that time. She will hold the post until 2023. Outgoing WIR, Laura Young, worked on The Butcher, her horror novel with an anticipated September 2022 publication date, while working at the museum. Young teaches English at OPRF High School.
Frank is on the faculty of Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies, teaching masters-level writing. She is the co-founder, editor-in-chief and poetry editor of the online literary magazine Memorious: A Journal of New Verse and Fiction. A board member of the National Book Critics Circle, which “honors outstanding writing and fosters a national conversation about reading, criticism and literature,” she serves on the poetry committee.
For more on Frank and to read her poetry, visit rebeccamorganfrank.com. Find her books at The Book Table: booktable.net, 1045 Lake St., Oak Park. More on the Hemingway Museum, including tour information: hemingwaybirthplace.com.