"Drowned Town" Author to be Featured Speaker at MSU's Reading Series
The Murray State Department of English and Philosophy's creative writing program presents a reading with author and MSU alumna Jayne Moore Waldrop this Thursday, April 14th, at 7 pm. Assistant professor of English, Carrie Jerrell, speaks to Waldrop ahead of the presentation.
Waldrop will read from her book Drowned Town, which she says "is about these really significant changes that occurred mid-20th century in western Kentucky. It's set primarily in western Kentucky around the construction of Karley Dam, the rising waters of Lake Barkley, and then the taking of the property formerly known as Between the Rivers, which the became Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area."
"Many, many thousands of people were affected by these environmental changes, and many lost their homes and were displaced. The book is about loss of home, loss of place, and what comes after that. So many people affected by these changes in western Kentucky had been on the property and called this place home for multiple generations. I think that the loss is also a multi-generational loss that is still felt today."
Waldrop explains that, as a Paducah native, she feels she's a beneficiary of these changes. But despite not having familial connections to the Between the Rivers region, she became closely acquainted with the region's history after buying an old Victorian home in Kuttawa, Kentucky. Towns like Kuttawa and nearby Eddyville are considered drowned towns. More specifically, Waldrop says, Kuttawa is a partially drowned town.
"Most of the town was deconstructed for the building of Lake Barkley. As I looked into the history of our house, I started learning more about the town itself and the town that no longer existed. In winter, the lake is at its lowest level. It's called winter pool. You can still see foundations and signs of old highways and signs of sidewalks. It just made the past seem very close to me."
"It seemed like everything I was writing was centered around the lake," Waldrop continues. "So, I started seeing a theme there. Part of that theme is on loss and change and transformation. In fact, one of the stories that's in the book was in my master's thesis when I was working on my MFA at Murray State in creative writing. That story was written in 2014 and has been revised multiple times since then. It's been a long process to see these stories come together and link and tell this in a way that I wanted to tell the story."
Waldrop lives in central Kentucky and the Louisville area now, but she still feels deeply connected to western Kentucky. "Every time I drive home to western Kentucky, the broadness of the sky and the openness of the landscape is something that hits me every time. You get to a certain point in the West Kentucky Parkway, and things just seem to open up. That's the landscape that is very dear to me."
"I love hills and mountains, but that wide open space of western Kentucky is what feels like home. It's a very distinctive landscape. I think also coupled with the lakes and the water—water's a very important part of western Kentucky. Not only so many lakes but so many rivers. It's a very distinctive trait of western Kentucky's landscape. Those are very near and dear to me as a native western Kentuckian."
Waldrop will read excerpts from Drowned Town as part of the MSU Reading Series on Thursday, April 14th, at 7 pm, in the Waterfield Library Gallery on Murray State's main campus. The event is free and open to the public. There's more information about this event on the WKMS Community Calendar.
For more information on Jayne Moore Waldrop, visit her website.
Listen to the full interview below: