Bookshelf Report: Nancy K. Dillon, Poe and Yellowstone

The Bookshelf Report is an ongoing series where a Bushwick reader or artist shares a little bit about the books that occupy their shelves.

Nancy K. Dillon is a Seattle songwriter. She’s performing her song “A Dream of Brother” at Bushwick’s Jack Straw Writers Anthology 2016 event on December 10. Her song based on a short story by Cassandra Lopez, “Fractions.”

Here is Nancy to tell you about her cool collection of books.

How do you organize your books?

By category, by and large.

Be honest. What percentage of the books on this shelf have you actually read?

95 – 98%


What’s your favorite book on the shelf and why?

“Tales of Mystery & Imagination” by Edgar Alan Poe and Illustrated by Harry Clarke. This book belonged to my very favorite person when I was a child, my Great-Aunt Eunice Cockrum. She was a librarian at the public library in downtown Oklahoma City. My mother used to take me downtown to listen to her tell stories. This copy of Poe’s Tales was a gift to her from her brother, Blake Cockrum. It’s inscribed “Merry Xmas ’38, Blake”.

 What book do you plan on reading next and why?

“A Guest In All Your Houses” by Peter Ludwin. I recently discovered Peter Ludwin’s poetry when I went to a West Seattle house show where he was reading from his new book, “Gone To Gold Mountain.”  It is a collection of poems about the massacre of Chinese miners mining gold in Oregon in the 1800s. The story was subsequently covered up and recently rediscovered.  Strangely enough, I had recently written a song about a massacre of Colorado coal miners in the early 1900s. That coincidence sparked a conversation which led to our collaborating on a concert/reading at Couth Buzzard Books last weekend where I bought a copy of Peter’s earlier book, “A Guest in All Your Houses”.  It has a GREAT cover !

I noticed you have a book called “Yellowstone by Train.” Have you taken the train to Yellowstone?

I’ve never had the good fortune to take the train to Yellowstone….BUT both trains and Yellowstone occupy special places in my heart and mind so when I was at Yellowstone for a family reunion summer before last I couldn’t resist buying that book !

What’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you on a train?

Hmm . . .I actually haven’t ridden trains in the USA very much!  Sidenote: Worst experience: riding trains in India! But back to the question, having done all of my growing up in Oklahoma, trains were a constant feature of the soundscape beckoning towards adventure and majestic landscapes as well as providing a comforting lullaby on dark nights. My best (and first) train experience was when I was around 6 years old. My Great-Aunt Eunice felt that a train ride was an important experience for everyone so she took me one Saturday morning to ride the train from Oklahoma City to the tiny town of Purcell, a 35 mile trip on the Heartland Flyer. Purcell was founded in 1887 and named after Edward B. Purcell, a vice president of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad (ATSF). Unforgettable.  I still remember standing next to her on the platform with all of the unfamiliar smells and clankety sounds.

What’s the best thing about Yellowstone?

I’ve been lucky to travel to Yellowstone National Park a number of times over the years: as a child with my parents, on various road trips between Seattle and Oklahoma and two summers ago when there was a family reunion and we spent a week just outside the park with daily jaunts to see all the various features. The very best time I had was visiting Yellowstone in the wintertime.  I met a friend in Montana to see the 1979 total eclipse of the sun and we stayed with another friend who worked in the Park. She arranged for a Snow-Cat trip into the winter landscape to see the steaming thermal features and watch the buffalo and elk looking for food nearby in areas where the warm upwelling water had melted the snow. I’ve never seen any landscape more pristine.

Thanks Nancy! Now I’m feeling nostalgic for my own trips to Yellowstone.

If you are reading this right now and have a bookshelf and would like to featured on the Bookshelf Report, please let me know.