Haldeman’s Team Photograph (Sarabande, Nov.) blends poetry and comics to create a narrative about her youth soccer team and the history of the Civil War battlefields where they played.
As a poet, what made you decide to create this memoir as a comic book?
I’d been working on it as a poetry collection for close to two decades, and it kept taking different forms. There was a narrative in my mind, and I thought the reader should be let in on what that story was about. So I wrote explanatory entries to each section of poems. And then, noticing how many graphic novels my own daughter was reading, I thought I could take those tiny essays and draw them. I studied comics that seemed to be doing what I wanted to do, seeing how they used space on the page to create silences, or to create shifts in tone, and tried to learn from them.
How did you go about researching Virginia history?
I grew up in Virginia, so I knew some of it, but there was so much more that I had not seen. I started this book with the title poem, “Team Photograph,” but I couldn’t write a book that was all poetry about 12-year-old me playing soccer. I started to investigate what else was going on in my life, and one of those things was hypnagogia [waking dreams]. I started seeing people in my room at night at that time.
Then, looking at a map one day, noticing how close Bull Run Regional Park was to the battlefields, I had this memory of referees asking us to check the soccer field for bullet shells. From there, the book took on its own initiative. It started to explain itself to me through writing it, and became its own living creator.
Can you talk a little about “seeing ghosts”?
In Virginia, I’d see soldiers, old women, all sorts of different beings. I’ve lived in Iowa now for about 20 years, and I still get hypnagogia, but it’s not in the form of people. It’s more in the form of lights and sounds in my room. When I went back to Virginia to do research on this book, I was staying at a farmhouse near the James River, and the first night I went to bed there was a woman. I thought, why do the people show up in Virginia, near these places?
What made you decide to draw the characters as wolves?
That’s for my brother Ryan. Ryan loved wolves as a kid. He was killed in 2012. I was asked to do an illustration a few months after his death, and I drew the character with a wolf head. I liked the way that looked and what it represented. I feel very canine-like at times. So now all my characters have wolf heads.