Community is a Feeling, Not a People

Turning ideas into action is one of my favorite things to do. So, my elation after Slash Pine pulled off the best poetry festival that I’ve ever been to was palpable. When a person talks about “the community,” they are not talking about fifty people who sit around waiting for other people to put on events for their amusement. They are talking about a feeling, the very particular and inexplicable phenomenon when very different people from near and far come together to create a giant feeling that hangs in the air and causes eyes to sparkle, ale to be drunk, thoughtfulness to be provoked, and bellies to shake like bowls full of jelly. It’s a feeling like no other and it can only arise when a few very dedicated art lovers (like the ones that can be found at Slash Pine Press) try to make it happen in a loving, respectful way. Whenever Slash Pine plans any event, it is with the knowledge that the event will never be as we planned it. It will only ever be exponentially better than we have ever dreamed or worse than our darkest nightmare. I am pleased to say that, in this case, it was the former.

The poetry festival showcased four different environments conducive in different ways to successful poetry readings: Gorgas House lawn (our only outdoor site), the Gorgas auditorium, Green Bar, and Mellow Mushroom. It was an ambitious scope for an event that focuses primarily on poetry. In the past, when I thought of the few poetry readings I had been to, they had all been dark, sometimes a little smelly, and almost always a little over the top and self-congratulatory with little audience participation. The Slash Pine poetry festival, however, managed to ensnare an almost entirely different group of people, and thus a different feeling, at every event site. Gorgas House Lawn happened to be personal; many of our close friends, our teachers, and our classmates were there, but in sizeable numbers, which led to a cozy, warm, happy, outdoorsy environment. Gorgas Auditorium attempted to attract an audience a wee bit earlier than is usually expected for poets and writers to rise. Despite this, the coffee, the chapbook table, and the snacks were conducive to a surprisingly lively and receptive audience to see readers from Slash Pine, Montevallo, and a few surprise readers who turned out to be the best of the bunch. At Green Bar, understandably, the crowd turned in a completely different direction. It was at a more forgiving hour, and friends, family, and people down for a good day-drink showed up, promoting a more responsive, cozy, dark, and thoughtful environment. Like a giant snowball, Mellow Mushroom accrued almost everyone who had been there for the weekend, plus any stragglers looking for something interesting to do with their night. It was a giant, interesting crowd there that night, and the revelry was running high.

By the end of the event, all Slash Piners were completely exhausted, but I went home feeling as though I had gone on a trip that had lasted a week and was now receiving a very well deserved rest, thoroughly exhausted but smiling like a Cheshire cat. All the poets at all the events were wonderful and very different, leading to fast-paced whirlwind of expectancy at every turn. They all created great works to be enjoyed by all, but Slash Pine made it possible for them to all share their work together, under the same roof. I appreciate the wonderful work, but I feel fulfilled down to my toes by the vision and effort that the members of Slash Pine exuded over that long and diverse weekend in October.

-Summer Upchurch


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