As a literature enthusiast, I am constantly on the prowl for books that not only challenge me but also manage to walk that line between easy-read and complex yet enthralling. Very few texts manage to do this, leaving me high and dry every summer, stuck with the same old dusty friends on my shelf. This story was tried and true until, one hapless Saturday morning, I was visiting my mother, and she took me to a place in Northern Indiana called Better World books. Continue reading
Each spring the English Department hosts an annual awards ceremony which recognizes its undergraduate and graduate students with a number of awards and scholarships. Below is a compiled list of this past year’s recipients as well as photos from the event. We congratulate each of the winners and, as always, are grateful to all who have contributed to the department scholarship funds and allowed us to award over $12,000 to our students in the 2011-12 academic year.
Tonight, there will be a reading at Village Green Records at 7:30 PM to announce the release of the chapbook How to Get a Job as a Mermaid. The chapbook was written as a collaboration between Ashley Ford, Abby Hines, Lindsey LaVal, Layne Ransom, Elysia Smith, and Lora Thompson, all of whom will be reading from their works tonight. The chapbook will be available for $3.
After the reading, there will be a special showing of the film An Island—a short documentary about indie rock band Efterklang from Copenhagen, Denmark. Both events could take place either inside or outside the record store, depending on weather.
The Slash Pine Poetry Festival is organized and executed by a mix of University of Alabama faculty, interns, and students. On March 31st of this year, four creative writing undergraduate students, including myself, descended on Tuscaloosa, Alabama to fulfill our part of a literary exchange with the University of Alabama. We were chaperoned by creative writing faculty Sean Lovelace and Matt Mullins. We were in a van for eight to ten hours—time was hazy, so goes the road. We may have passed through the Midwestern Bermuda Triangle as well. When we arrived, we were greeted by sunshine and warm, complimentary cookies and milk. This boded well for our Southern literary adventure.
The University of Alabama campus was well groomed. It looked as if it had just gotten a haircut to ready for a big date—and we were happy to court. Pink, white, and yellow flowers added to a genial atmosphere, along with a mid-60’s sun. This made things comfortable and cradled any anxious nerves anticipating the undergraduate reading.
The Undergraduate Exchange Reading featured students from the U of A, Flagler College, a private four-year liberal arts college in St. Augustine, Florida, and us BSU undergraduates. We read in front of the Gorgas House, the first structure built on the U of A campus with an abundance history behind it (relating to the Civil War and otherwise). It was great seeing our exchange friends from U of A read again, and fun seeing what a new group of peers, those from Flagler, were writing.
The reading was scheduled to last three hours, as were all the festival’s readings. Even to those who love literary readings, this is one petrifying block of time. Mercifully, none of the readings took the full amount, and our Undergraduate Exchange Reading even had an intermission that included four or five different kinds of pie and apple cider. I don’t know if this is a common Southern custom, but a pie and cider break definitely keeps a reading lively.
The next reading was at the Children’s Hands-On Museum, where Lovelace would read. There were stuffed bears frozen in funny faces, an artificial Mission Control that took my retinal scan (I believe a blue light just clicked on and off, but it seemed legit), funhouse mirrors, and an old drugstore. Lovelace considered reading from an American wilderness scene with some critter pelt on his head. He tested it, and he really had something there, but we eventually found a stairwell leading to the actual reading space, so we conformed.
As I haven’t been to many readings outside of the BSU area, besides Vouched Presents, I was really interested to witness different reading styles and to see what writers brought to the performance aspect of literary readings. The first reader, T.J. Beitelman, made apparent his technical poetry style with a soft voice and careful pauses. Occasionally, he would put a tape recorder up to the microphone and play songs and outtakes from Bob Dylan sessions. Overall, his performance seemed very practiced and fluent.
Lovelace read various works from his chapbook How Some People Like Their Eggs, and a new series he’s been working on with the central theme of Velveeta. By far, he had the best audience reaction of any of the readers. His work also seemed the most contemporary, greatly regarding the now rather than discarding it, which many writers seem to do. BSU affiliations aside, he was my favorite reader, and if you have the opportunity to take a writing class with him, do it. Lovelace’s work was funny and vibrant, and every word seemed as deliberate and careful as Beitelman’s.
Some ending highlights of day one: Shook hands with Michael Martone after Lovelace’s reading, who was uniquely styled in his appearance and reminded me of Albert Grossman. Watched a video of an Abe Smith reading on Lovelace’s iPhone—even through the internet and small screen, it grabbed and shook the viewer with Smith’s attention to sound and performance. Smith wasn’t featured as a reader at the festival, but he could be seen slinking around at the different readings. I sincerely hope I get the chance to see him read live someday.
In Alabama, there are signs everywhere saying not to litter and “Keep Us Beautiful.” The hotel floor mat said, “we love that you’re here,” and the doors and walls simply said, “thank you.” Sorry you get so stuffed with tornadoes, Alabama (tenfold what Indiana experiences). You seem like a nice place.
P.S. Still have one more day of the Slash Pine Poetry Festival to report on, so keep watching, BSU!
Hey, remember when those sweet students and that nice-guy professor came from the University of Alabama a few weeks ago and wowed us with their words? Well, that was for the first ever Ball State University-University of Alabama Creative Writing Student Exchange. Now, we’ve gotta hold up our end of the deal.
I was lucky enough to have been selected by Creative Writing faculty, Sean Lovelace and Matt Mullins, to accompany them on the trip, along with Layne Ransom, Elysia Smith, and your English Department blogger Jeremy Bauer. At the end of this month, the very end to be exact (March 31st), we will be heading to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The plan is to read at The Slash Pine Poetry Festival with those cool University of Alabama students and some other visiting students. Also, we will be able to see some awesome readers from both the University of Alabama and other visitors. (Side note: I’m most looking forward to seeing University of Alabama MFA student Brandi Wells and poet Oliver de la Paz.) In addition to the readings, during our three-day stay, we will be meeting with faculty and students of the university to learn about their programs, such as the planning of this festival and their awesome literary magazine the Black Warrior Review.
You might be surprised, but I’m so stoked about this trip. More importantly, I’m honored, realizing how unique and great of an opportunity this trip is for me as an undergraduate student. Additionally, the trip has created an opportunity to design and share chapbooks, broadsides, and videos of the readings. Recently, we started a Kickstarter project for this trip, to help cover the expense of traveling. As rewards for donating, we are offering the limited-edition chapbooks and broadsides, along with other cool things, to donors. Again, we have been honored by the feedback from this project already, and thrilled to see so many supporters with a little under a month still left.
I think there is something uniquely special about meeting writers (both students and otherwise) from other universities and communities. In my limited experience as a writer, I’ve grown immensely from knowing other writers and writing enthusiasts on the Internet. To take those interactions or make them in person will truly be a life-affecting opportunity. For me, this trip is more than a chance to visit another school, to read at a poetry festival, to produce some literary works, to spend close time with writing friends, and to share my work with so many people; rather, it’s the amazing chance to do all those things together in three days.
Can I speak for all four of us? Okay. Reading at the festival is the culmination of a creative project lasting several years: developing our craft of writing. The travel we will undertake will allow us to exhibit and share our work with a whole new audience through our readings, an audience we may otherwise never reach. Also, we are thrilled for such an opportunity, through fundraising and the trip, to share our growth as writers via the chapbook, broadsides, and videos.
There will be a student-organized poetry reading tonight at 9:30 at Be Here Now, in the village. Here’s the lineup, in no particular order: Kelly Stacy, Alex Dunning, Joe Cermak, Layne Ransom, and Elysia Smith. If you are under 21, there is a $1 cover charge at the door. This will most likely be the last of these student-organized readings this semester, so don’t miss your chance to listen to some great work by your peers!
The Writers Community of Ball State is excited about words. We share our own poems, stories, and nonfiction as well as our favorite pieces from our favorite authors. We meet every Monday at 7 p.m. until about 8:30 in the Writing Center (291) in the Robert Bell Building of Ball State University. We have also put on a variety of Creative Writing events for the University, including the Undergraduate Writers Gala competition, faculty readings, and student readings. We invite any creative writing enthusiasts to bring their favorite works to a meeting or event.
The following is an interview with Writers Community member and officer, Elysia Smith.