Tag Archives: Layne Ransom

Reading tonight!

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.

Slash Pine Poetry Festival: Day #1

Photo courtesy of Sean Lovelace. Left to right: Jeremy Bauer, Elysia Smith, Layne Ransom, Tyler Gobble

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.

Signed,

Jeremy Bauer

P.S. Still have one more day of the Slash Pine Poetry Festival to report on, so keep watching, BSU!

Interview with Paul Killebrew, this year’s poet for the In Print Festival of First Books

Paul Killebrew

Our third and final excerpt from The Broken Plate’s In Print Festival interviews is with poet Paul Killebrew. Killebrew is the author of Flowers, published by Canarium Books in 2010. John Ashbery has written that Killebrew “plunges us into a world we inhabit but seldom notice, forcing its horror on us but also reminding us why we go on coping with it.” Born and raised in Tennessee, he now lives in Louisiana, where he works as a lawyer at Innocence Project New Orleans. Here is his interview excerpt:

How did you choose the title for Flowers?

The first draft of the manuscript included a lot of poems that I’d written for specific people, and Flowers seemed like a nice way of thinking about those poems. I ended up revising the manuscript quite a bit and took out most of the occasional and epistolary poems, but there were still a lot of poems that seemed to deal with immediate beauty,

so the title still fit. I also thought that the word “flowers” was due for something like this.

What have you been working on since Flowers?

Five or six years ago I told myself that I wanted to write good short poems, which for me would be anything under 25 lines. At that length my poems have tended to feel either truncated or of radically reduced scope, and then you read all these folks who do so much with so little, I mean this is poetry after all. So for the past year I’ve been trying to write shorter poems, though they’re all coming out to be like 25 to 30 lines, so maybe instead of short I should call the poems medium.

Medium poems—how’s that for an ambition?

Having some familiarity with the city, “Nashville” was cool to read, and I’m curious how your feelings about Nashville, as a native, come into your writing.

As an English major at a southern university I took the obligatory course in southern literature, which, though we read some fantastic stuff, was awful, partly because the professor took the position that contemporary southern writing, and at some level contemporary southern culture, was (or maybe should be) anti-technology and defiantly agrarian. Maybe or maybe not, but that was definitely not the Nashville countrypolitanism I grew up around. Nashville is a remarkable place that growing up in did nothing to make more comprehensible. There’s a complicated racial dynamic that loomed large in my childhood because I went to a virtually all-white private school that had been founded in the ‘70s specifically because the federal courts had recently enforced integration of the public schools through bussing. And then Nashville also has this hilarious campy side that’s both unpretentious and glitzy. The town is full of washed-up talent. It’s hard to know what to do with all that. In the poem “Nashville” I tried to make a record of words that struck me as indigenous to the Nashville I grew up in, as a kind of documentary.

*(Interviewed by Layne Ransom)

The In Print Festival of First Books starts tonight with a reading by the authors from their work. Tomorrow is day two of the festival, which features a panel where the authors, along with an editors from Artifice Magazine, will field questions relating to writing and publishing. Every year, the In Print Festival is a shining event greatly looked forward to, so we hope to see you there!

Guest Post: Tyler Gobble on the Ball State University-University of Alabama Creative Writing Student Exchange

Cover of the students' collaborative chapbook

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.

Annual Gala Winners Reading

From left to right: Layne Ransom, Lindsey P. LaVal, Spencer McNelly

Tonight! The Writers Community will be hosting its annual Undergraduate Gala Winners Reading. The reading serves as one of the outstanding prizes awarded to Layne Ransom, Lindsey P. LaVal, and Spencer McNelly for winning the top three places at the Undergraduate Writers Gala last fall. The reading will be in Bracken Library, room 104, at 7:30 p.m. Come out and celebrate this great accomplishment of your peers by listening to their work. It’s sure to be a great time, so don’t miss out!

Guest Post: Layne Ransom, undergraduate student, on the value of poetry readings

Layne Ransom

This may sound melodramatic, but I’m indebted to the first poetry readings I attended at Motini’s two-ish years ago for not letting me become a Wheel of Time fan fiction writer. I’m not kidding. Before then, I was oblivious to contemporary literature and mostly read fantasy novels about scantily-clad people waving swords at each other.

From hearing what my peers were doing, I learned two valuable things: being the grammar police isn’t that important, and words, like people, need to cut loose sometimes.

I don’t mean that knowing basic syntax and punctuation isn’t important. I think that’s obvious. But I didn’t realize how little my high school AP-English-encouraged perfectionism had to do with crafting interesting, beautiful, or emotionally engaged writing. I believed that if I knew what rules to follow, then what I did was artful. That my own development as a human being, of working toward being more honest and self-aware, would somehow be vital to producing meaningful writing was not on my radar.

Also, almost everything I’d read consisted of said fantasy novels and the canon of literature classes. Both of these strands of writing, in my experience, took themselves very seriously. (Even when the former rarely gave reasons to do so.) Everything I knew—which wasn’t much—said there was no screwing around in writing, and I believed it. I didn’t allow my words or myself as a writer to be anything but stiflingly serious. I taught my words dinner etiquette and forbade politics, religion, and dirty jokes at the table.

Hearing poems about the Internet and Van Halen was both a slap upside the head and divine permission to not take writing as a whole, my own writing, and myself so damned seriously. Sometimes words just want to eat Taco Bell and play Mario Kart, and I finally realized that wasn’t just okay, that was wonderful. Sometimes I just want to eat Taco Bell and play Mario Kart, and I stopped outright dismissing as worthless the experiences I had normally categorized as trivial or “not good enough” for writing. After this, my writing got better, which made me think more, so my writing got better, and so on and so forth.

I started participating in readings because I was grateful for the marked change they started in me, and wanted to know how having an audience affected my writing. I’m still fresh to it, and owning a stage and microphone feels giddy and criminal, like smashing mailboxes or egging your ex’s house. But reading and writing with people who care about how words inform human experience is strange, cool, and lovely, and I’d be missing out if I weren’t doing it.

Student reading tonight!

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!