We asked the 97 contributors to the Nancy Drew Anthology (Silver Birch Press, October 2016) to send photos featuring the book in their home environments for a series we’re calling “Nancy Drew Around the World.” Author Julie E. Bloemeke provided these photos taken at Rhodes Hall in Atlanta, Georgia. Julie contributed the poem “Triple Hoax,” featured below, to the collection.
AUTHOR’S NOTES ON THE PHOTOS: I submitted two photos, a reflection of duality in my history with Nancy Drew. In both, I wear a pendant, bought years ago precisely because it reminded me of the spider sapphire on the cover of one of the hardback Nancy Drew books I owned and read as a girl. In the first shot, there is a portrait of Millie Benson, far more an adventurer and rogue spirit than my poem gives her credit for. It is my way of paying homage to my fellow Toledoan writer. A high wind raced over the porch as I took the photos. The only way to keep Millie in place was to tape her photo to the inside cover. The gusts were so strong that my copy of The Spider Sapphire Mystery blew off of the columns, many times, missing my head by mere inches.
I chose to shoot at Rhodes Hall in Atlanta for its columns and stone, its suggestion of castle, its name, Hall, another tip to other Nancy Drew titles and locations. The sun flare reminds me of ghosts, orbs, another layer of mystery, all caught without my knowing as these are self-portraits, taken with a timer. I could not see my pose or the light; it was all a mix of guesswork and chance. So when I went back and brought up the frame, lit as it was, with Mildred looking over Nancy, Nancy looking over me, me looking over the anthology, it seemed a haunting serendipity.
In the other photo, I wanted to unbutton Nancy, to satisfy some of her longing, and mine. Perhaps I wanted to scandalize Millie a bit too. I left many clues; the more one regards the photo, the more there seem to be. The old lace in the window is both a hint to a Nancy Drew title, and to one of the only humorous lines of poetry I have — as of yet — written. My boots are also a metaphor: all of the suggestive seduction of tying and untying, brass bound, the hidden staircase of want. The ring I wear was made in Toledo; I purchased it from the Toledo Museum of Art after my poem won the 2015 ekphrastic contest there. Look closely at the layers in the window; there are two people passing by, made captive by the camera, caught and reflected back, people I did not see at the time. With no one behind the lens, my expressions are for an unknown, the intensity behind my eyes a surprise even to me.
How I searched those promising titles,
their suggestive seductions: scarlet
slippers, brass-bound trunks, hollow
oaks that refused to reveal where.
How every mystery stopped me,
Ned and Nancy at another “No
Trespassing” sign, perfect set-up
of near lust again interrupted.
How could Ned and Nancy resist
all those heavy breathing phone calls,
that sensual slinking behind
moss-covered mansions, intense
whispers in the dim light of twisted
candles, the two of them, alone, crouched
under the hidden window, fingering
that spider sapphire in the dark?
Book after book, I began to get a clue,
suspect a double jinx, but still I held out,
determined to find the key
to Nancy’s jewel box, the secret
of Shady Glen, hoping that Nancy
would rip off her velvet mask, slip
under the hidden staircase, unbutton
that old lace and say, here, Ned,
is the real twin dilemma.
But instead, there was only the persistent
mystery, the tease of the broken
locket, those damned leaning chimneys,
the crossword cipher that kept me—
captive witness, dancing puppet—
from unveiling the silent suspect,
the true sinister omen, the phantom
trick behind the text,
the Carolyn Keene who wasn’t
who wrote Ned and Nancy
into perpetual chaste,
the hex of a wooden lady
who never held a secret after all.
Clue: 23 Nancy Drew titles below. *
* (1) The Triple Hoax (2) The Scarlet Slipper Mystery (3) The Mystery of the Brass-Bound Trunk (4) The Message in the Hollow Oak (5) The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion (6) The Sign of the Twisted Candles (7) The Hidden Window Mystery (8) The Spider Sapphire Mystery (9) The Double Jinx Mystery (10) The Clue in the Jewel Box (11) The Secret of Shady Glen (12) The Clue of the Velvet Mask (13) The Hidden Staircase (14) The Secret in the Old Lace (15) The Twin Dilemma (16) The Clue of the Broken Locket (17) The Clue of the Leaning Chimney (18) The Clue in the Crossword Cipher (19) Captive Witness (20) The Clue of the Dancing Puppet (21) The Silent Suspect (22) The Sinister Omen (23) The Secret of the Wooden Lady
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: A sleuth of intuition, Nancy searched for symbols, signs, clues, not only to solve cases, but the mysteries of the people she encountered — their gestures, tone of voice, shifty glances, contradictory stories. And Ned, her “special friend,” was curiously exempt. Ned and Nancy snuck out, broke rules, trespassed, untied each other, freed one another from kidnappers and enemies. He rescued her; she rescued him. And yet in all of this, no passion or true physical intimacy, not even a startling kiss to emphasize the throes of their continual life-or-death predicaments. I read Nancy Drew voraciously, waiting for such a moment, hoping the detective I so admired for her pluck would let her guard down, expose the clues of desire. And when she didn’t, I began to feel a sense of betrayal and frustration, a flagging trust, as if the hex had been on me all along. Couple this with my discovery that Carolyn Keene — who I much admired and longed to be — was not a person but a pseudonym, and I felt doubly duped. It was only in further research for “Triple Hoax” [included above] that I learned another truth. Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, I spent almost two decades living only miles from Mildred Wirt Benson — largely Carolyn Keene — while she was alive, and often still writing. It is a great regret that I only discovered this well after her death.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julie E. Bloemeke’s poetry manuscript, Slide to Unlock, was recently chosen by Stephen Dunn as a 2016 finalist for the May Swenson Poetry Award. Her manuscript also placed as a semifinalist in six book prizes, among them the 2016 Crab Orchard Review Poetry Open Competition, the 2016 Washington Prize, the 2015 Hudson Prize, and the 2015 Crab Orchard Poetry Series First Book Award. A graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars and a 2016 fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, her work has appeared or will be published in Gulf Coast, Crab Orchard Review, Chautauqua Literary Journal, Drunken Boat, Poet Lore, The James Dickey Review, Four Chambers, and Bridge Eight among others. Her work has also been included in various anthologies, including The Southern Poetry Anthology Volume V: Georgia, My Cruel Invention, and The Great Gatsby Anthology, among others. A 2016 finalist for the Saluda River Poetry Prize for the state of South Carolina, she was also the winner of the 2015 ekphrastic competition at the Toledo Museum of Art, where her work was on view with the Claude Monet collection. In November she served as the inaugural Poetry Director for the Milton Literary Festival in Georgia.
Find the Nancy Drew Anthology at Amazon.com.