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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Ice Hours

Crew members in Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914 Trans-Antarctic Expedition
Flickr/Viaggio Routard
Crew members in Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914 Trans-Antarctic Expedition

In 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton set out on his Trans-Antarctic Expedition. For two years, Shackleton’s party on the Ross Sea fought frozen wastelands, scurvy, snow-blindness, starvation, hypothermia, and frostbite to cross the southernmost continent. Poet Marion Starling Boyer was so fascinated by his story that she put it into a collection of poetry, called Ice Hours (MSU Press, 2023). The book won Michigan State University’s Wheelbarrow Poetry Prize in 2021. Now a resident of Ohio, Boyer is a Kalamazoo Valley Community College professor emeritus and has five published poetry collections.

A conversation with Marion Starling Boyer

Shackleton published an ad when he was seeking people to come along on his expedition, stating that “safe return doubtful.”

The front cover of "Ice Hours"
MSU Press
Marion Starling Boyer
The front cover of "Ice Hours"

“All kinds of people signed up for that,” Boyer says. “He had boxes that he dropped the applications into, and he labeled them ‘mad,’ ‘hopeless,’ and ‘possible.’ And from the ‘possible’ box, he pulled an unusual assortment of men to go on this journey, some suited for it, some not.”

Shackleton’s goal was to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent. In her poems, Boyer describes the journey, describing the people, the weather they endured, the obstacles they faced, the environment they traversed, and the letters they sent home.

Boyer says researching the expedition and writing about it is “a 20-year obsession.” “I learned this story from a friend who told it to me on a family vacation trip. I got a book called The Lost Men, and then another book called The Forgotten Men, and I read it through, and I thought that everyone knows about Shackleton (who did) a heroic thing. He did an amazing rescue of his men.”

But Boyer wanted to tell not only Shackleton’s story but also the stories of the three men on his support team who lost their lives on the journey. Her account in poetry won the Wheelbarrow Prize from Michigan State University.

Boyer will read from Ice Hours and present a slide show about Shackleton’s Antarctic journey at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 10, at the Richland Community Library in Richland, Michigan. The event is free and open to the public.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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