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Works of poet revived in her hometown

July 29, 2000

Works of poet revived in her hometown



By CHUCK MASON / Staff Writer


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Jim Surkamp loves finding people. Recently, he found Caroline "Danske" Dandridge.

She wasn't actually lost. The works of Dandridge (1854-1914), a widely acclaimed poet and author who grew up in Shepherdstown, fill 64 boxes at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Surkamp admits he's "smitten" with the poet, calling her an "Emily Dickinson, but with a lazy husband and three children."

On Monday, a 24-minute video and dramatic reading will be held three times in the garden area of the Mecklenberg Inn on German Street in Shepherdstown to celebrate the author's works. The programs will be at 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. The readings are for people over 21 years of age, Surkamp said.

Ardyth Gilbertson will read Dandridge's poems following the video and there will be a display of various photos from the author's life.

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The video is already running on GS Communications cable in Frederick, Md., as part of a program entitled, "Jefferson Agenda History." In addition, Surkamp has developed a Web site on Dandridge's works that will be hosted on the West Virginia University server. He has produced other Web sites for historical figures.

"It's almost miraculous that she could also write over 200 articles on gardening, two volumes of widely acclaimed poetry and four, full-length and highly regarded history books," Surkamp said.

"She would have been much better known if she had lived in New York," he added.

The resurrection of Dandridge has been an extensive project for Surkamp. It was sponsored by the Boarman Arts Center in Martinsburg and with funding from the West Virginia Humanities Council and the Arts and Humanities Alliance. With that backing, Surkamp researched Dandridge's papers at Duke and put together a collection of photographs which are posted on the Web site. They include family members and pictures of Dandridge at various ages.

"It's like falling into the Grand Canyon. It's like finding gold in your back yard," the researcher said, adding, "There is a peculiar, midsummer's eve quality about this woman."

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