Today, we are welcoming you to Season 3 by reintroducing and replaying an episode that exemplifies what our podcast is all about. In January 2020, we released the episode “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Elizabeth Smart” created by researcher and producer Myra Bloom. To kick off this season, Hannah and Myra sat down for a new introductory conversation that puts Myra’s past episode in the context of the SpokenWeb project’s values and Myra’s forthcoming podcast series. Then, we invite you to listen to the voice of Elizabeth Smart again, or for the first time, and consider what caring for and sharing the sounds of literary archives means to you.
Over the years, Elizabeth Smart’s 1945 novel By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept has risen from obscurity to cult classic. The book, which details an ill-fated love affair between an unnamed narrator and her married lover, is celebrated for its lyricism, passionate intensity, and its basis in Elizabeth’s real-life relationship with the poet George Barker. After publishing By Grand Central Station, Smart lapsed into a thirty-year creative silence during which time she worked as an advertising copywriter and single-parented four children. In this poetic reflection, Myra Bloom weaves together archival audio with first-person narration and interviews to examine both the great passion that fueled By Grand Central Station and the obstacles that prevented Elizabeth from recreating its brilliance.
Featured in this episode are Sina Queyras, a poet and teacher currently working on an academic project about Elizabeth; Maya Gallus, a celebrated documentarian whose first film, On the Side of the Angels, was about Elizabeth; Kim Echlin, author of Elizabeth Smart: A Fugue Essay on Women and Creativity; and Rosemary Sullivan, Elizabeth’s biographer. This episode also features archival audio of Elizabeth in conversation at Memorial University (1983) and reading at Warwick University in England (1982).