Kim Roberts has been busy the past couple weeks. While an artist residency at the Pine Needles cabin on the banks of the St. Croix River might sound relaxing, she describes her visit as "full."
Roberts' most recent book, which will be the subject of her presentation in Marine on St. Croix this Thursday, June 23, is about polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated trip to the South Pole in 1910-1913.
The event will include not only Roberts reading excerpts from the book, but also "stunning" photos from the expedition's photographer and other stories from the "Heroic Age of Exploration."
Hard at work on final edits for her next book, titled "The Scientific Method" and due out in February 2017, Roberts has also been revising a non-fiction manuscript about the literary history of Washington, D.C.
Mixed into that has been explorations of the local community, including a stop at the Stone House Museum in Marine, a sculptor talk at Franconia Sculpture Park, and a pontoon ride on the river. After we spoke, she was heading to the Science Museum of Minnesota's warehouse, where curators would show her some of the "hidden treasures" in the collection.
As a professional writer and poet, Roberts has used the residency to get some work done, but she has also benefitted from conversations with research station staff.
"One of the most amazing things has been the scientists," she says. "They make it different than any other residency I've done. The scientific process is a lot like the creative process, with trial and error, thinking up new questions, thinking about old questions in new ways."
Her fascination with Scott arose during a sweltering summer in her home of Washington, D.C. Roberts started reading accounts of polar exploration 25 years ago to cope with the city's heat and humidity. ("It really does work," she says.) Something about Scott clicked.
She connected to Scott's uses of language, but felt "a great discomfort" reading his journal. "As a woman, a Jew, and aware of the impacts of colonialism," she approached the story from a different angle.
The residency has also given her a new angle. A Great Blue Heron fishes in front of the cabin everyday in the late afternoon, and it makes a "cameo appearance" in one of the new poems she is writing. "I've seen a Great Blue Heron before, but never lived with one as my daily companion," Roberts says.
Meanwhile, research station lab technician Erin Mortenson convinced her to write something about the Lead-210 lab, where historic lake sediments are dated using radioactive isotopes.
With a week left at Pine Needles, Roberts is planning to make the most of it: working on old and new works, giving her community presentation, and enjoying the company of "her" heron.
June 23, 2016, 7:00pm
Marine Village Hall
121 Judd Street, Marine on St. Croix
Co-sponsored by Marine Community Library and the St. Croix Watershed Research Station's Artist at Pine Needles program.