I have been working on organizing my house these last few week and going through boxes in the garage. As I was cleaning, I happened to come across a collected poetry book from my ninth grade English class, and I also found a picture of my Great-Great Grandfather Hiram Brisbin in his Civil War uniform. I don’t know why, but these items (plus a collection of poetry that my Great-Grandfather had published) really spoke to me and led me in my decisions with regard to this project. I guess they seemed important because House of Leaves was so dependent on the stories that sprang from each of the individual family relationships. I thought it might be fun to play with some of my own family history and see what happened.
Since my Great-Great Grandfather was in the Civil War, I decided that I would spend some time looking up his war records. It is amazing to me that I can go to an online database and find information that is as specific as the date he entered and left the army (148 years later, no less). I decided to use some of the information about where his regiment was stationed throughout the war in my piece, and I linked to the full text as well. I also linked to a few other pieces of pertinent information regarding the war and Hiram specifically.
My next step was to add some information about my Great-Grandfather. Though he was gone long before I was ever born, I have a bit of insight into his life. In the 50’s, he self-published a book of his poetry and my grandfather recently gifted me a copy. I’ve probably read it a hundred times since, and I get something new out of it each time. I decided to share his poem titled “Soliloquy of Peace”, which is one of my favorites. I told my Grandfather that I would use one of these poems for a blog post at some point, I just didn’t realize this is quite how it would come about.
Though I didn’t put them in any specific order, I then added information that gave insights into one person from each branch of the family tree on the Brisbin side. For my Grandfather, I added some information on the police station where he was chief until his retirement. I then used Google translate to transfer it into German, for my father who is a German linguist. Lastly, I added a silly (though structural sounding) poem that I wrote in ninth grade called “The Cold Metal Bench” to round it out. I also added several links to my family tree study, including a horribly infectious pop song, and a video on comma usage, (you have to actually click on a comma in order to get to it) as well as a few other text additions.
This project didn’t turn out quite like I had imagined, mostly due to a few WordPress limitations, though I like it the way it is. I have added a picture of the work I had started before I realized that cutting and pasting from word was maybe not the best way to do it. I won’t give away much else, because I want people to be able to form their own interpretations of the work. My main goal is what Johnny says at the end, “That ought to confuse someone” – hopefully I have accomplished that.
For more interesting House of Leaves projects please visit: