Monthly Archives: May 2012

From my town to Chi-Town

To be honest, as we mini-vanned our way into gut of the city that Thursday night I could have cared less about the big buildings with their highfalutin, sweet potato lights shining down through the fog and making me think I’d fallen asleep in a bowl of casserole. We were bumpin’ Kanye’s Monster and Colin was rapping his heart out side by sonic side with the esteemed Mrs. Minaj when we sidled up to the curb outside apartment 2222 (every number had a buddy). The first face I saw was Rachel’s—bouncing down the sidewalk, smiling like her face wasn’t big enough for all the happy. And then Al, Spence, and Marie on the stoop each waiting with a gangster lean on a big stone frame and a firm handhug (in the case of Marie a real hug ‘cause who shakes hands with a girl?) that seemed to say, “Welcome back.”

Slash Pine and Shotgun join forces to stitch “Tongues on the Tracks”!!!

You see, we Slash Piners and them Shotgunners (the press they started after we introduced them to the supreme fun of stitching was called Shotgun Press) had created a space all our own. And the trip to Chicago felt less like a journey to a foreign land and more like a return to this shared space that we carried around with us like a hamster ball (us, of course, being hamsters in said ball). As is customary, we frittered away the first night with a fine fusion of frivolity and foetry (shit, I mean poetry). The following day we made history live on radio and then rode a train in a catawampus circle. While aboard, I had Spence explain to me the finer points of eye contact etiquette as well as what to keep an eye out for whilst window gazing (apparently he’s seen a couple of folks in the nudie nude). The next day we combed the sidewalks, and I couldn’t help but notice the difference in pace between us Southern folks who are used to moseying through thick heat and the Chicagoans who walk with the wind. On our walk, Al and I bandied about the idea of getting an apartment together if I end up calling that place home, which is probably what’ll happen.

Tourist shot in THE BEAN!!!

Before I knew it, it was time to leave. The only real mark I’d left on the city was a splash of spit on a pigeon’s wing and a nose smudge on gigantic, shiny bean. However, if the mark my presence left on them city folks was half the mark they left on me, then that would still be a good-sized mark as far as marks go. Seriously though, I feel such a deep connection with those people. Through getting to know them, I have realized just what a fantastic and instructive bond creative writing can foster. Perhaps because the act of writing can make us feel so isolated and the presentation so vulnerable that when these acts are shared and are the thread that binds a group of nutty little scribblers together, the trust and red, white, and blue lurve that develop run deep.

-Will Gillette

An Encounter with Altitude: A Non Sequiter

When Kansas came to visit us Slash Piners, each group knew approximately one thing about the other group. I’m not sure what Kansas knew about us Alabamians (although I have a few guesses), but I know that we knew that the Kansanians lived in a land without altitude. The other thing we knew? We only had a week to plan a totally awesome whirlwind of writing, bonding, and poetry reading. If anyone ever wanted to know how such a thing is done, I can say that all it takes is a little knowledge of space and a lot of knowledge about people. So, we set to work trying to draw meaning from the relationship between high and low lands, and, understandably, with Slash Pine’s natural inclinations toward space-making we thought it would be fun to take the altitude-deprived Kansanians to a mountain, make them walk around a lot and talk to us a little, and hopefully gain some sense of communion with some like-minded, poetry-lovin’, outdoorsy people from across the nation.

If I learned anything from this exchange, it was that I am NOT a special snowflake, which I was told by Kansas’s teacher/mentor Megan Kaminski when I insinuated that geocachers (who I have lots more respect for after our failed attempt to find a geocache per-instruction to follow a path while vaguely having to “look down and then up”) might not appreciate opening a box full of undergraduate poetry after a similarly long trek through the wilderness. I choose to interpret her comment to mean that spatial distance between people does not create interpretive walls between them. It applies to both the people in our exchanges and “mugglers,” a geocaching term, meaning: people who are not geocachers and steal things that geocachers work hard to place so that only other geocachers can find them. I think it’s important to not forget the mugglers of the world– the people who we writers assume have no desire to understand writerly doings. In this way, we remember that we are most certainly NOT special snowflakes, but that all snowflakes are special and so none of them are. Writers didn’t get the way they are by being special, they got that way by wanting to be special.

A great exchange requires a commitment to immediate openness and a will to accept the weirdness that inevitably comes when writers interact. I think after Chicago, Kansas, AND Fairhope, Slash Piners have developed more than enough moxy to be able to do both successfully. We’re practically world travelers by now. And our experiences have led us into more strange situations than I’ve entered into in (probably) my last 5 years of life. Seeing Joseph Wood bathing mermaid-like under a waterfall in the middle of the landscape of the greatest altitude Alabama has to offer with the sun coming down in all the right places through the trees is an image I’ll never forget. Slowly, intrepid Slash Piners and Kansanians alike became bold and forewent heavier articles of clothing to be able to plunge into the freezing cold waters. I couldn’t help but look at us all, suddenly, as a full-fledged group of special snowflakes, being young instead of writers and being people instead of Alabamians, Slash Piners, or Kansanians, each individual slowly becoming entrenched in the fabric of each others lives and becomingone giantic, spectacularly special snowflake.

-Summer Upchurch

Slash Pine interns descend on Fort Morgan

A week after our internship took us to the top of Mount Cheaha, it swept us back down to the beaches of Fairhope for the Gulf Coast Writer’s Association Conference. It was a weekend for literary conversation, sandcastles, and poetry readings–perfect, in other words, for us.

            On the first morning, we attended a reading by several incredibly talented writers, including Slash Pine’s own Brent House (his chapbook, The Saw Year Prophecies, was one of Slash Pine’s first chapbooks to publish!)

After the reading, we went to Fort Morgan with our beloved Patti. We explored the gorgeous old caverns and walls, and Laura gave me a very detailed explanation of the term “duportail” that later turned out to be completely fabricated.

I still don’t know what it means.

 

We sat in an amphitheatre-shaped cannon turret to write (maybe? I don’t know what it was, and I doubt Laura did either, but it was shaped perfectly for our purposes) and to read what we had written. Patti read to us from her book of poetry, and we were, obviously, rapt. It was hard to leave, but we took lots of pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day was our busiest. We attended a panel led by the student editors of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College’s literary magazine, Pegasus. We were so impressed that we went to lunch with them later, and that led to an entire hour of nonstop chatter about literature. We know we like a group of people when they get as excited about David Foster Wallace and Kurt Vonnegut as we do!

After the ABAC panel, the Slash Pine interns led a chapbook stitching panel, and had our participants assemble copies of Be the Heat. They loved the hands-on, personal aspect of stitching chapbooks, and they were so excited to take home their own copies. We got to talk about why we love Slash Pine, and it made me proud to be part of this group of people.

Between panels, readings (our own and others), and browsing chapbooks from other presses, the interns gathered on the beach to talk about authors we love and things that inspire us to write. We were already close—we spend absurd amounts of time together and pretty much have to love each other—but during the trip we felt like we became a family.

– Alexandra Franklin

Summer, flanked by Laura and Colin, heads fearlessly into the fort.

From Chicago to Alabama: an Exchange Story

 We first met at the Civil rights museum, both sides nervous but eager to accept and communicate. They were all strikingly good looking, and I was immediately struck by the impulse to correct my posture and extend my warmest smile.  I had never before heard of a student exchange. Two schools swap students to meet, greet, and otherwise exchange ideas. I knew there would be writing. I knew there would be a reading in which I would be required to bare my soul to the world. And of course, there would be the ever-present conceptualization of space.

                As we browsed the opening exhibit, I thanked the heavens that we had some external form of stimulation to discuss.  Meeting people can be exhausting.   As the exhibits led from domestic artifacts to a darker room of translucent portraits hung from the ceiling and foreboding against the backdrop of white-hooded, white-men, the tone deepened.  I was weighed down by ancestral, white- guilt; I regretted bringing them here. They were unfamiliar with the South, and we chose to bring them here? In planning the itinerary, I tagged the Civil Rights Museum as a historic blurb before we got down to the business of literary conversation, but it was a gut-wrenching reminder of our cultural heritage, our shameful past, and the constant struggle for equality.  I guess our visit to the Civil Rights Museum set the tone for honesty. We confessed the worst of our Southern culture before showing off our cuisine, our campus, and ourselves.

                On the car ride home, one of the DePaul Students  remarked that the Birmingham city and highway landscape was similar to his home in Cleveland, and his home in Chicago. “How quickly we homogenize”  He said. It is true that cities across America are similar. The differences are in the details.  How do you dress, where do you go at night, what do you feel when you are surrounded by people?  There are city dwellers vs. suburbanites, East vs. West, North vs. South, and all the overlays that comprise a place.  I cannot think of a better way to experience a city than by communing with the locals.  Although I was not able to experience Chicago this way as of yet, the chance is not lost! Perhaps in August I’ll tag along with Katarina to Lollapalooza. I can look forward to more conversations of place, of space, and of beginnings within!

 The exchange experience as done by Slashpine is one of the most genuine informal ways to learn about the heart of a city: its people.  If it had a tourist-travel-pack modeled after it, I would recommend it.  I had the opportunity to host four of the kindest people I have ever met, and for this, I am grateful.

Rebecca Cape 

Depaul/Tuscaloosa: Exchange

Tuscaloosa

DePaul University visited us first; four students—Al, Spencer, Marie, and Rachel—flying in from Chicago, while we drove up from Tuscaloosa to meet them in Birmingham. The theme of the exchange was movement. Itt was fitting that we started out with physical movement, from place to place, and visited the Civil Rights museum, an exploration of social movements. After eating at Al’s, we went to Becca’s apartment and wrote an exquisite corpse poem—the typical idea of fun for writers.

The next day, we headed out to the train tracks to write for a few hours before we hiked down to a small creek, reading the raw things we wrote for the camera. Afterwards, after eating at Mugshots, we went down to the model train station and read the poems we had written for the reading, Tongues on the Track. It was a small, intimate setting, one that juxtaposed our theme of movement against the still train, the quiet resting of the shadowed figures that sat, listening to the reader.

The weather next day was not conducive to camping, as we had originally wanted to do, so we stitched chapbooks with DePaul instead—an exercise they heartily enjoyed. We worked quickly, growing more sure as we worked. The camaraderie knit itself around us, and I realized just how much I would miss these people I had only known for a few days.

Chicago

When we came to Chicago, I was still groggy from my nap, but awake enough to be struck by the faint, sparkling beauty of the city—how the buildings faded into fog like a myth, the lights sweeping over our faces like they were searching us. We found Al’s apartment and went out to eat before coming back. I stayed up that night to write my poem to read on the radio the next day; my bed was next to the gigantic window that looked out onto the street, struck by how the light seemed different here.

In the morning, we walked to DePaul University and read our poems for the DePaul Writers’ Series. We talked about Slash Pine and the exchanges, as well as about writing in general. We rode the El and walked around downtown Chicago to write for a while—I jotted down notes, but couldn’t think of anything to write yet. We went to the Bourgeois Pig, a café that had literary names for sandwiches—such as the Great Gatsby and the Walt Whitman. We also visited the Poetry Foundation, which was beautiful—it held a lot of books, and we walked around looking at chapbooks before plucking a volume of poetry off the library shelf to read for a while.

Later that night, we visited a writer’s house to hear two authors read from their books—it was another close, intimate experience that reminded me of the reading we had done on the train tracks. It struck me that this was something that something most people didn’t think about when they thought about writers—a kind of support that didn’t necessarily involve fame or lofty recognition, but a personal approach that meant so much more than impersonal acknowledgement.

The next morning, we stitched our chapbooks before taking the El downtown. There was a man dressed in silver clothes, painted silver, who danced to music in a robotic fashion—something that rarely happened in Tuscaloosa. After eating and walking through Millennium Park, we visited the Chicago Cultural Center, to look at the typography exhibit and write. Then we walked to Wicker Park to read what we had written, ending with a freestyle rap by Will. We visited a few bookstores—one carried an eclectic stock of chapbooks and enigmatic works by local authors, and was delightfully quirky.

We packed up our bags early in the morning and said goodbye. I said goodbye to Chicago, but not forever. Years from now, I will be telling my children the story of how I fell in love with a city. About trains and people and the biting cold, the bookstores tucked away in the façade of the city, the poetry that fell from our lips onto park benches.

– Lin Wang

Wooing Across the Country

As we drove into the city of Chicago, Illinois, the office lights of the architecturally stout buildings twinkled through the softly rolling fog blanketing the dark night sky. Great waves crashed against the lake shore, while the runners seemed unconcerned from the spray. We—Katerina, Colin, Lin, Will, Luke, and myself—all stared out the windows of the university provided van, taking in the city’s welcome.

The next day I commented on the ride in saying, “It was all very romantic.”

That perfectly sums up my feelings over the entire exchange process with the DePaul University students. I was wooed by these students and the conversations and doings of each separate weekend. And I feel as if the feeling was reciprocated.

When the DePaul students were headed home at the end of their time in Alabama, one of the students, Rachel, threw a mock fit in the airport, refusing to leave and tossing her things onto the ground.

She said later that we gave her a lesson on how to be a good person. Our southern hospitality apparently wooed them too.

It is things like that that make me realize how successful our exchange time together was. During DePaul’s time in Tuscaloosa, we spent four days working under the theme of movement. During the weekend, we moved from very industrial spaces and things, like Birmingham and the Civil Rights Museum, to more natural spaces and things, like a stretch of grass lining an old train trestle. We took them to the small food dives to get a taste of authentic Tuscaloosa. We even had a reading at the Northport Train Depot called ‘Tongues on the Track’. Clearly, we like trains. Our poems and prose that we read even focused on movement, whatever that might have meant to each individual person.

And then, in Chicago, our theme was privacy in public spaces. As is the nature of a bustling city, people are elbow to elbow every day without even noticing each other, sharing intimate moments without realizing it. Our task was to take the time to notice each other. We spent time riding the subway, walking the streets of the city, plunging into small bookstores, attending a poetry reading in a private home, and recording a radio show. There was so much immersion happening, but what made the exchanges successful were the people.

The point of the student exchange is to push you out of your physical and mental boundaries and drop you into an unknown environment, with fresh people and fresh ideas. Slash Pine attempts to extend our community of writers and form friendships with these people. And with Chicago, we accomplished this.

While DePaul was in Alabama, we taught them how to stitch chapbooks and discussed the world surrounding chapbooks. When we arrived in Chicago, we learned that DePaul had been so inspired by this that they had started their own chapbook press called Shotgun Press. They surprised us with their first chapbook, ‘Tongues on the Tracks’—a collection of the poems from our reading in Alabama. I joked that we gave them Chapbook Fever.

Something wonderful happened during our time together and I don’t quite know how to explain it. I consider myself blessed to have been a part of it and a part of Slash Pine. Blame the nostalgia on my graduating this weekend, but Slash Pine made such an impact on my life and I am so thankful for the experiences that the internship provided me with. The best way for me to describe it is, it was all just so very romantic.

—Sarah Jennings

Stitching and Talking and Swimming and Reading and Boy, Do I Love Slash Pine!

By the time we went to Fairhope, the Slash Piners had become a family of sorts.  You know those really weird, loud families you see at the mall, and you always roll your eyes at them as they pass you?  That’s us.  We went for a conference put on by the Gulf Coast Association of Creative Writing Teachers, and though we went mainly for work and educational purposes, it felt a lot like a vacation.  We went to the bay every night, and even when we were goofing off, it seemed like the conversations always circled back to writing.  Our first full day started bright and early.  We went to a panel in the morning to hear a reading.  Not to speak for the group, but I believe our favorite writer in the panel was a girl named Josie from the University of New Orleans.  Her essay was amazing.  I loved getting to hear writers from outside of Tuscaloosa and Birmingham read their work.  After the reading, we went to Fort Morgan to explore and write.  Fort Morgan is a beautiful historic site, and my favorite part about the space was the little amphitheaters inside the fort.  While sitting in there, Patti read for us (BEST READING EVER), and then we wrote for an hour or so.  I enjoyed having a free writing session instead of having a prompt.  We all took turns reading after the hour, and later left for the hotel.  The next day we led a panel on stitching chapbooks.  We had a decent crowd for the panel, and everyone loved it.  We stitched copies of Be the Heat, and every participant took home a copy (or two!) that they stitched themselves.  I really loved being able to meet new people that were really interested in talking about who we are and what we do in Slash Pine.  The panel went over incredibly well.  We also went to a panel on undergraduates as editors that was led by the folks running Pegasus, a literary magazine out of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC).  It was really interesting, and we later went out for lunch with the students from ABAC.  Our conversations were mostly on authors we loved and what we wrote.  It was a great experience to get to meet them.  We also had a panel where we read our work with some of the MFA students from UA, and it was a wonderful reading.  Overall, I think my favorite part of our trip to Fairhope was growing closer to the other interns.  It was so much fun being with them for a few days to just hang out and go to an awesome conference (and sing showtunes in the van).

-Laura Flowers

PRETEND YOU’LL DO IT AGAIN

Greying Ghost Press released Josh Russell’s Pretend You’ll Do It Again late last year.  The chapbook’s sleek design has a certain edge about it that drew me in immediately.  The brown cardstock cover recalls cardboard boxes and moving, but I particularly liked the hand-stamped gun in the center of the cover.  Shooting out of it is a circle (red or yellow depending on the edition), with the title overlapping itself. The title page’s font is lighter and elegant which is a nice contrast to the cover. Inside, there are repurposed maps with pastels yellows and blues and deep reds that match the red inserts at the beginning.  Many of the stories have a sense of arrival or departure, and the maps help convey this sense.

One of my favorite things about this chapbook is that Russell’s work is mostly flash fiction.  As one of the few prose writers in Slash Pine, I really appreciate finding a chapbook that isn’t poetry—especially one with a high caliber of work.  Russell has a strong voice throughout that takes the reader into concrete places like the foyer of a daughter coming home with her new lesbian girlfriend, or more abstract places of the mind like the recollection of prom or the hardships of growing up in a rural area.  The title comes from my favorite piece in the chapbook, “Advice.”  It’s one of those pieces that place you in a situation rather than a place.  Russell gives advice to couples on their way to make love for the last time, and the advice is simple.  Don’t focus on this being the last time, but “pretend you’ll do it again.”  The language provides beautiful twists that haunt the reader days later. 

I only had one issue with Russell’s chapbook, and the issue is mainly just my personal design taste.  The chapbook is staple-bound, and while it is extremely effective, I prefer hand-stitched chapbooks.  They’re more personal, and I feel more of a connection with the stitcher than I do with a person stapling books.  I understand that stapling allows for time to be saved, though, so this isn’t a huge issue.

Russell’s Pretend You’ll Do It Again is a wonderful chapbook, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys beautiful, punching language and stories that cause one to smirk often.  You can check out the book here: http://greyingghost.tumblr.com/post/12260213976/pretend-youll-do-it-again-by-josh-russell-josh

-Laura Flowers

A Community of Artists is the Best Kind of Community!

Being in a community of artists is about being a part of something bigger than yourself or the other artists.  It’s about creation of something tangible that stirs up emotions in the audience as well as the artists.  Everyone is working toward a common goal, whether or not the work is collaborative.  The goal is to create.  In a community of artists, your art is accepted and appreciated, and you can also accept and appreciate others and their work.  The space allows for a conversation, and to me, that’s the most important thing about being in a community of artists.  As a writer, I rarely if ever get to talk about my work or others’ work.  When you’re in a community of artists, conversations like this are commonplace, and I believe these conversations are an integral part of the community as well as the artists’ work.

Laura Flowers is a junior majoring in English and minoring in Creative Writing.  She is the recipient of the Thomas Wolfe Best Overall Creative Writing Award at UA.  Her cat is named Indiana-Joan-Jet-Lee-Ann-Rimes Flowers (Indie for short), and the two enjoy playing fetch.

Ex-ch-ch-changes, Time to Face the Strange

This Post is Almost a Year-End Review!

The very first thing we did as interns was have a discussion about arts and community, and if you fall back a few pages on this blog, you will find what have been labeled ‘ruminations’ on that topic. I was the only intern lucky enough to experience the full extent of our community based events this year, as I was the only one to participate in every exchange. An exchange is basically an exercise where we take a group of our intern-writers and put them somewhere else. If you would like to hear this in more eloquent terms, we told the DePaul University radio all about it. It’s long, but it has some good writing and interesting things in it, and you’re already reading this, so you must be interested. It can be found at http://depaulsws.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/april-27th-show-listen-now/.

Image

Alabama and DePaul at the Tracks

Obviously, we went to Chicago. As someone who had never been to Chicago, one would think that I would have been super into the city aspect of it—experiencing big city things in a big city way; however, that would kind of be missing the point of the exchange program, at least from where I stand. The real point is the community, the people, the conversations, and here, at the end of the year, I can confidently say that is what Slash Pine is all about. I think the best way to go at showing you how I came to this grand revelation—which is completely different than merely being told it on the first day of class—is to look at our entire exchange program this semester chronologically.

First, DePaul came to us. Rachel, Al, Spencer, and Marie—four writing students from DePaul—came to experience the South. This happened pretty early in the semester, so we pretty much got to work on planning their itinerary right away. We took them for what I have been told was some amazing food, planned some writing time, showed them Tuscaloosa, and even had a reading—which I have since learned was some of their first public reading. While all of that was awesome, the best parts came from simply being around each other. The exchange environment is pretty immersive: they stay with us, and we see each other more or less 24/7 for about four days. We had goofy writing exercises, some NSFW lines in an exquisite corpse poem, and intense and interesting conversations. There was even free style rap. Not only did we come away from that weekend with four new Chicago friends and better senses of ourselves as writers from those conversations, we also came away as a much closer intern pool, which might have been the most important part in getting us through the rest of the semester.

The next big thing, if you will, was a trip to Fairhope, Alabama for a Gulf Coast Writing Conference. While there, we heard a pretty diverse group read—from a myth-alluding poet from Auburn to MFA’s from our own University. We also read ourselves, for the first time without a predetermined prompt, so in my opinion, I kind of got to hear the other interns’ ‘real’ voice, and got to expose mine for the first time. At the conference, we shared our culture with new people by leading a stitching workshop. Everyone got a chapbook that they had made themselves. It’s a really satisfying feeling to see something you made with your own hands.

Image

Me on a Mammoth, Obviously.

We even spent one day at Fort Morgan and we even got treated to a reading by the ever fabulous Patti White, founder of Slash Pine. [Check out her poem Tackle Box, and maybe Medical Advice if you’re feeling a little racy] While at the fort, we also had free writing time and read for each other. We spent our nights lounging around what I believe was a bay, reading to each other from hotel beds, and having some pretty deep heart-to-heart talks with each other. This trip was very different from DePaul, as we weren’t really visiting anyone specific. We made some friends from ABAC, met people from all over the Southeast, but really, I think we came away from this an even closer group than we did after planning DePaul’s visit to us.

Image

I’m a Tourist, sometimes. #sorryboutit

Finally, the exchanges came full circle, and a group of us got to go see our Depaul friends in Chicago. We stopped at Dinosaur World on the way there, and most of my pictures from the trip involve me illegally touching dinosaur statues. The DePaul trip was an amazing experience; we did some touristy things, but all in all, I felt like we got a genuine cross-section of the city. We read for a radio show (link above), read in Wicker Park, experienced the train, and all of the things it had to offer, but most importantly, continued conversations and relationships that had been started months ago in Alabama.

Image

Everyone Lookin’ Cute, Feelin’ Cute in Chicago

When it comes down to it, those conversations are what an exchange is about. The exchange is representative of community. Community is integral to Slash Pine. So, in my eyes, the conversations we had about writing, voice, identity—those conversations, in a way, are Slash Pine to me. At least they are what I will remember my time with Slash Pine through. Hopefully, too, they continue. Trips are already being planned back to Chicago; the DePaul crew has started their own small press; another Chicago group may well come to Alabama next year. Keep an eye out as the conversations continue within the exchange and within Slash Pine. Who knows what will happen next!

Tagged