Introduction to Brian Kiteley's Poems

Brian Kiteley's work in issue #2 of DOUBLE ROOM is part of a longer novel called THE RIVER GODS, which he explains in more detail below. In discussing his project with us, it became clear that the novel is largely a series of somewhat autonomous but interconnected vignettes that ‘behave' like prose poems or flash fictions, as you will see when you read them. For this reason, we're happy to publish a glimpse of this extended work. The author has included a brief introduction below, which provides additional background and context for the entire novel.

—The Editors

I should explain this very brief excerpt of The River Gods. The novel is an idiosyncratic history of Northampton, Massachusetts. It starts in 1993 with a very personal landmark for me, my brother's death from AIDS. The novel then moves backwards in time, using postcard stories and longer stories. The novel ends at about 1000 AD, with an imagined scene of the Vikings, straying much further south than their settlements in Vinland (present-day Newfoundland). I examine family characters, historical figures, and fictional characters constructed out of my research. The method of composition relied a great deal on other writings and photographs. In the case of the Wallace Stevens story, I scattered throughout it phrases from a Stevens poem about the Connecticut River. The Williamsburg Dam story was triggered by photographs of the aftermath, as well as maps of the path of destruction. In an essay on historical fiction I wrote that contemporary novels in the genre “read and reread the past—through research often exposed quite casually to its readers—fixing on the page a self-conscious method of understanding the past by inserting imaginative dreamscapes between the words and sentences of primary and secondary sources.”


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