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


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