Over the years I have occasionally encountered attempts by artists in various genres to make sense out of America’s guns. Or perhaps I should say, America’s love of guns. Because it’s pretty hard to argue that as a country we don’t love guns when there are somewhere around 300 million of them floating around.

              That being said, I know of three museums whose displays are devoted to guns. The first and maybe most interesting (at least for me) is the small museum in what used to be the government arsenal in Springfield, MA which was the place where the production of guns in this country really began. Then there is the gun museum at the headquarters of the National Rifle Association in Fairfax, VA.

              The third museum, which in certain respects is the most interesting of the three collections, is located in Cody, WY and is a collection of guns which the museum’s owners, Hans Kurth and Eva Szkultecki, have dug up over the years. Which is why they call their collection the Dug-Up Gun Museum – why not?

              The town of Cody was founded by Buffalo Bill in 1901 and is located at the eastern entrance to Yellowstone National Park, which was designated a protected federal property in 1872. As you can imagine, the town of Cody is immersed in the history of the Old West, and tourism related to Western history is what the place is all about.

              The 21 poems and essays which comprise The Dug-Up Gun Museum, is an attempt by the Professor of Poetry at Smith College, Matt Donovan, to try and make some sense out of guns in this country, or at least create a heightened degree of cultural understanding of what guns are all about.

              To that end, the author visited some of the storied gun sites, such as the NRA Museum and the Winchester Mystery House, where the widow of the Winchester gun company’s founder lived following the death of her husband until she died in 1922. The house is allegedly inhabited by the ghosts of victims shot and killed with Winchester guns.

              But what makes this collection so unique is not that Donovan also spent a day in the Dug -Up Gun Museum looking at the artifacts which have been found lying in the ground and now put out on display. Rather, it’s the idea that you can not only find such buried treasures no matter where you look, but that such archeological objects will continue to be deposited into the earth for generations to come.

              I remember as a kid walking around the battlefield at Gettysburg and seeing several people digging holes here or there trying to find a bullet that had been fired in that great battle which had taken place some ninety years prior to the time that my mother and I drove up from Washington, D.C. to tour the scene.

              But Gettysburg lasted four days and then it was over – done. Lincoln showed up some four months after the battle ended, delivered his brief speech and that was the end of that.

              But what Matt Donovan realized as he moved from one gun site to another and wrote about what he saw and what he found, is that the objects whose use creates gun violence only disappear if they are tossed away – the deaths and injuries caused by guns go on and on.

              How do you make logical sense out of the shooting of a kid named Tamir Rice because the cop thought that the replica toy gun he was carrying was a real gun? For that matter, how do you explain why thousands show up every year for a re-enactment of D-Day when the whole point of participating in this event is to get blown to bits?

              Which is what Matt Donovan’s book is all about – using an artistic genre to capture what is otherwise an inexplicable issue in American life.

              Don’t just take my word for it. Buy this remarkable book right now.