Tag Archives: Sean Lovelace

Sean Lovelace Recommends “Coming into the Country” by John McPhee

In the latest installment of our Recommended Reads series Professor Sean Lovelace recommends Coming into the Country by John McPhee.

Author John McPhee is a technician, from the micro to the macro. He is a meticulous architect, with a keen emphasis on structure, but he’s the type of designer that bends the boundaries, a Frank Lloyd Wright, even more a Zaha Hadid, or a Gehry. McPhee once wrote an entire book about oranges, using the fruit itself—from seeds to flesh to unraveling rind—as his structure. He later wrote an essay on Atlantic City; using a Monopoly board as his scaffolding (the streets and railroads of Monopoly are actually located in New Jersey). So I recommend the nonfiction text, Coming Into the Country, not only for its majestic subject (Alaska), but for its technical mastery.

McPhee divides Alaska into three sections, using geography as his structural cue. The first section is titled, “The Northern Tree Line,” and explores the truly wild (as in unpopulated by humans) rivers (McPhee is an avid canoeist and tends to find his way onto the water for most of his books) that meander below the Arctic Circle, the Brooks Range. The second section is “In Urban Alaska,” an examination of Anchorage, Juneau, and all of the nasty, political machinations behind the sudden influence of oil, oil money, and a 1974 debate on relocating the capital (It remains in Juneau, as we know). The final section, “In the Bush,” conjures up the mythical Alaska, the Yukon, gold fever, sled dogs, Eskimos, an Alaska we are supposed to recognize (though, of course, we know little to nothing).

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2011 Outstanding Creative Endeavor Award: Sean Lovelace

Each year, Ball State University honors one of its faculty members with the Outstanding Creative Endeavor Award. We are proud to announce that this year the award has been given to our very own Associate Professor of English Sean Lovelace.

To read a full write up about Professor Lovelace’s recent award on BSU’s website, click here.

Slash Pine Poetry Festival: Day #2

Matt Mullins reading, photo courtesy of Layne Ransom

I was most excited for the second day of the Slash Pine Poetry Festival. My nerves were operating at a low hum, as I didn’t have to read, and had logged a day’s worth of experience in Alabama, so I could operate the whole day with just my wonder gaze on. The belly full of fried catfish, collard greens, black-eyed peas, and cornbread didn’t hurt, either. Cornbread everywhere you go—how hospitable, how comfy.

The first reading I attended was at the Green Bar. The area of the bar was somewhat narrow, but stretched far into a dark space that ended at a raised stage. Green Bar’s scene was reminiscent of the local Be Here Now readings—cramped, dusky—and while BHN readings tend to have a fair attendance, the Green Bar’s reading was brimming with people. By the time us Ball State visitors arrived, it was standing room only, save for a few seats sparsely dotted throughout, and only visible seconds before someone else smoothed into them.

Michael Martone and Abe Smith, two University of Alabama writers and teachers in attendance, had quickly become iconic in my mind. I remembered Martone’s Blue Guide to Indiana only somewhat from Professor Sean Lovelace’s fiction class, and I’d only discovered Smith’s work the night before. Still, they each had a quality about them that made me glad to inhabit their vicinities. Almost as if the genuine and original quality their writing held was also something they exuded—something you could inhale and catch.

I hoped there would be some happenstance, some alignment of supernatural elements that would result in Martone and Smith reading at the festival, but it must not have been in the cards. I didn’t leave Alabama feeling literarily deprived, though. There were too many good writers, and if anyone left with that feeling, they didn’t pay attention well enough. Some highlights from the Green Bar readers were Brandi Wells and Oliver de la Paz. Wells read from her Worst Times series. Something about her, and her writing, seemed genuinely tough. And in a room full of writers—a group generally thought to bruise easy and over think making a fist instead of blocking a right hook—Wells’ writing aesthetic was refreshing. Oliver de la Paz was one of those readers that maintains a gentle cadence and looks to be talking in a somewhat hushed tone, but you realize you can hear him clear as day because he’s mind-controlling the entire room. You realize he’s doing something with a combination of mood, sound, and vocabulary that hooks into everyone in the audience. Just after he read, I found myself bobbing my head up and down, saying, “Mhmm, good stuff, good stuff.”

The next reading was at the Bama Theatre. It was a weird environment: a production of The Wizard of Oz letting out scattered munchkins, Wicked Witch of the West guards, and flying monkeys, while throughout the reading gussied-up kids passed by the wall-sized windows on their way to the prom. Ellie Isenhart, who graduated from Ball State’s M.A. Creative Writing program in 2010 and is now part of the University of Alabama’s M.F.A. Creative Writing program, read from a letters series with a bite. Christopher DeWeese put me back in my too-baggy clothes and heavily gelled hair with his collection of poems inspired by 90’s alternative music (nobody talks about the song “Lightning Crashes” anymore, and I’ve been waiting for this a long time—thanks, DeWeese). When Matt Mullins started on the mic, I felt pretty proud to be affiliated. Just as Lovelace had one of the best crowd responses at his reading, Mullins got to the audience. In his reading style, you can tell he has a good grasp of rhythm and sound; that he revels in that locus where the oral and written aspects of literature hold equal importance.

The Slash Pine Poetry Festival was a lit dog race, a lit endurance trial. But I imagine most of the readers have sat through long, dry, odyssean readings themselves, though. They seemed to make effort to keep things lively. It’s a great thing to be surrounded by people that share your passions and are excited by the same things you are. You’re great hosts/hostesses, U of A people. Thank you kindly for an awesome experience.

Signed,

Jeremy Bauer

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!

Good News #2

This is the second post of our “Good News” series—a series to highlight the accomplishments of the English Department’s graduate students and faculty. Here’s what they’ve been up to:

Adam R. Beach’s essay “Global Slavery, Old World Bondage, and Aphra Behn’s Abdelazer,” was accepted for publication in Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, and will appear in their Winter 2012 issue.

Peter Bethanis’ short story “Poet and Clown” was accepted for publication in Art Times.

Cathy Day has received a Beatrice, Benjamin and Richard Bader Fellowship in the Visual Arts of the Theatre from Harvard University’s Houghton Library. Each fellow is expected to be in residence at Houghton for at least four weeks during the period from July 2011, through June 2012. Her project for the fellowship is entitled, “Looking for Linda: The Scrapbooks of Mrs. Cole Porter.”

Tiffany Ellis delivered a presentation of her paper, entitled “Cohort-Oriented Project-Based Learning in ESL Teaching,” at the meeting of the Indiana Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (INTESOL). The meeting took place in Indianapolis, in November of 2010.

Ashley Ellison’s essay “Connecting Memory and Research Through Eco-Composition,” is forthcoming in Indiana English. She will give a presentation with the same title in June at The Association for the Study of Literature & Environment’s conference, in Bloomington, Indiana. In March, Ellison presented a workshop with Elmar Hashimov at the East Central Writing Centers Association conference. The conference was titled “Communicating Across Cultures: The Role of Culture in the Tutoring Session,” and took place in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Robert Habich’s book, Building Their Own Waldos: Emerson’s First Biographers and the Politics of Life-Writing in the Gilded Age, has been published by University of Iowa Press. His coauthored 2010 book, Romanticism and Transcendentalism, 1820-1865, which is part of the seven-volume Research Guide to American Literature, has been named an Outstanding Reference Book for 2011 by Library Journal.

Joyce Huff has joined the editorial board for Fat Studies, a new journal from the Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

Erin Banks Kirkham’s essay, “Catherine, Crispin, and the Midwife’s Apprentice: Names and Identity in Children’s Literature,” was published in International Congress on Medieval Studies, in May 2010.

Sean Lovelace’s short story collection, Fog Gorgeous Stag, is scheduled for release on July 12th of this year by Publishing Genius.

Michael Meyerhofer’s third full-length book of poems, Damnatio Memoriae, won the Brick Road Poetry Book Contest, and will be published in April/May of this year. His fifth chapbook, Pure Elysium, won the Palettes and Quills 2nd Biennial Chapbook contest, and is scheduled to be published this month. Meyerhofer also had two prose poem/flash pieces, “Ode to Dead Batteries” and “The Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic, 1962,” place as finalists for Mid-American Review’s Fineline Competition, and both were published as Editor’s Choices. He had another poem, “The Stuttering Headsman,” published by Hayden’s Ferry Review in their 2010-2011 issue. He has poems forthcoming in North American Review, African American Review, Southern Indiana Review, New York Quarterly, Hobble Creek Review, and others, as well.

Matt Mullins’ short story collection, Three Ways of the Saw, is scheduled for release in spring 2012 by Atticus Books.

Miranda Nesler’s article, “Closeted Authority in The Tragedy of Mariam,” is forthcoming in Studies in English Literature, 2012.

Chaehee Park co-authored an essay with Megumi Hamada, entitled “Word-Meaning Inference: A Longitudinal Investigation of Inference, Accuracy, and Strategy Use,” which was accepted for publication by Asian EFL Journal. Park and Hamada both presented “Using Think-Aloud as a Metacognitive Strategy in L2 Lexical Inference Instruction,” at the meeting of the INTESOL in Indianapolis, in November 2010. Park also presented “L2 Spelling Investigation: A Comparison of English Learners of Korean and Native English Speaking Children,” at the meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics in Chicago, in March of 2011.

Martha Payne presented a lecture entitled, “The Reality of Myth,” as part of the Nick Smyrnis AHEPA Lecture Series at the University of Indianapolis, in March 2011.

Monica Robison’s article, “The Power of Words: Othello as Storyteller,” was published in Storytelling, Self, Society, in January 2011.

Andrew Scott’s collection of short stories, Naked Summer, will be published in June 2011 by Press 53.

Congrats to all our grad students and professors!

Undergraduate Literary Exchange with the University of Alabama

February 21 and 22, the University of Alabama faculty/writer Brian Oliu and four Alabama undergraduate writers will visit Ball State University to exchange ideas about creative writing, visit our Creative Writing in the Community program, and also visit the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry.

On Tuesday night, February 22, BSU will host a reading where the visiting Alabama writers will showcase their original creative works. The reading is at 7:30 p.m. in Bracken Library, room 104. Please come out and support our visiting authors from the South!

From the end of March to the beginning of April, four creative writing students from BSU will be visiting the University of Alabama and The Slash Pine Poetry Festival, accompanied by professors Sean Lovelace and Matt Mullins. Here’s a short excerpt from Slash Pine Press about their festival:

“In April, The Slash Pine Poetry Festival brings over forty national and regional poets together for a two-day extravaganza of poetry. The festival highlights the public and democratic nature of creative work, refusing to privilege one form or aesthetic over another, and presenting diverse voices in non-traditional, communally-accessible spaces. The festival itself spreads widely across a range of venues, emphasizing that art is intimately connected to place”.

Feel free to check out this firsthand account of the first SPPF in 2009.

The BSU undergraduate students participating in the exchange have started a fundraiser on Kickstarter.com to cover the costs of their trip. Kickstarter features donation increments that award certain prizes determined by the dollar amount. For instance, in the case of these students, poems/stories, chapbooks, and broadsides created by the students themselves number among the prizes awarded. You can view the students’ Kickstarter here.

Guest Post: The Nurse Who Can Write

Professor Sean Lovelace

Before my employment as an English professor I had another career: RN, Registered Nurse. In nursing, writing was not only necessary; it was at the core of our very system of accountability. One key statement was hammered into students during nursing school, the same doctrine practiced every day as a working nurse: “If it wasn’t written, it wasn’t done.” As staff on the hospital floor, Registered Nurses “chart” their activities into a series of daily nursing notes, a precise record of every medical procedure and interaction with patients. These documents are critical, providing important information to fellow health professionals, the patient, and, in some instances, the legal profession. These notes must be written clearly and accurately. Staff nurses also write admission and discharge reports. They record vital signs. They fill out separate forms for medications, dietary needs for patients, unusual incidents, on and on. Their day is filled with writing.

Another key role for nurses is teaching. Nursing is a profession based on the concept of preventative care. For example, if a person is educated about risk factors such as diet and weight beforehand, they might not develop diabetes at all. This teaching is often done by nurses. Informational materials are usually designed, edited, and written by the very professionals doing the teaching, the nurses.

In my nursing career, I was quickly promoted (partly due to my writing ability) to Charge Nurse and then Nurse Coordinator, an administrative position supervising nurses. My administrative responsibilities were grounded in the written word, including memos, care plans, a variety of reports, grant requests, and any manner of daily, written communications. I even edited the nursing newsletter for the hospital, a duty both important and enjoyable. My ability to write well, to communicate accurately and concisely, was critical to my ability and credibility in every position as Registered Nurse.

To put it simply, nursing is a profession. All professions in this country have reported a pressing need for strong writers, for individuals who can shape words to effect. No matter the vocation, the ability to write is indispensible, and writing very well is fundamental to sustained career success.

Where can a student obtain these important writing skills? In courses offered by the Ball State English department. No matter what your major, BSU offers an opportunity to add an English minor in a variety of writing disciplines: professional writing, creative writing, linguistics, and literature. Once a student leaves the university and enters the larger world, they will find—as I did in nursing—that communication skills are universally appreciated. No matter your present major or future career, the time to learn these skills, to study within and obtain a minor in English, is now.

Two events this weekend starring our very own BSU professors!

Looking for a way to round out your first week? Well, we’ve got a couple of events that should help.

This Friday, January 14th, Professor Cathy Day will read from her memoir Comeback Season: How I Learned to Play the Game of Love. The event will be held at the E.B. & Bertha C. Ball Center at 10:00 a.m. Day will discuss the different ways sports have informed her writing, her teaching, and her life (her memoir pairs the Indianapolis Colts comeback season with her experience as a 30-something professional looking for love).

Here’s a breakdown of the event information:

Date: Friday, January 14, 2011
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Place: E.B.& Bertha C. Ball Center, 400 Minnetrista Blvd, Muncie, IN 47303
Cost: No charge, but reservations are required.

*Please call 285-8975 for more information and to make your reservation.

The second event this weekend is Vouched Presents: Matt Bell, Sean Lovelace, Aaron Burch, and Andy Devine. This reading will take place at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art on Saturday, January 15th, at 7:00 p.m. Matt Bell was part of last year’s In Print Festival, representing the editorial portion of the Q&A panel. He has recently released a book of short stories titled How They Were Found, and is the creator and editor of The Collagist, an online literary magazine. Our very own Professor Sean Lovelace will be reading as well, so this is a great chance to hear his work and pick up a copy of his chapbook How Some People Like Their Eggs. The Vouched Presents reading series is put on by Ball State alumnus Christopher Newgent, who gave us a great interview on his project Vouched Books and how he balances his passion for writing with his working life, which you can read here.

Here’s a breakdown of this event’s info:

Date: Saturday, January 15, 2011
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, 1043 Virginia Avenue, Suite 5, Indianapolis, IN 46203
Cost: FREE

Attending events like these can really bolster the college experience, so take advantage while you can!

Interview with Christopher Newgent on the independent publishing world, the web’s effect on literature, and balancing work with passion

Christopher Newgent

Christopher Newgent graduated from Ball State with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing in 2006. Newgent puts his degree to use trying to improve his city environment of Indianapolis by bringing independent literature to the public at art and music events. He generously agreed to share those experiences with us here at the English Department blog, as well as his experience balancing a working life with creative passions.

Can you share a little about what your job is and what sorts of duties it entails?

I work as a technical writer for Aprimo, Inc., a marketing software company in Indianapolis. My job is primarily writing the online Help—how to perform specific functions in the product. I’m about to start taking over localization efforts, which is business-speak for getting the product translated into other languages.

How did your English major at Ball State prepare you for such a position?

The fact that it had “writing” in the title helped, but it actually took a bit of salesmanship to convince the hiring manager that I could take a creative writing major and succeed as a technical writer. There’s a hefty difference between creative and technical writing, but the overlap exists in consideration of audience and precise language. BSU has professors who really excel at teaching these two aspects—Mark Neely, Sean Lovelace, and Andrew Scott particularly come to mind.

Can you explain a little about Vouched Books—how it came about and what your aims and ambitions are for the project?

Vouched is a project to promote independent literature in Indianapolis. It started with the idea of setting up a flea-market-style book table at literary and art events, and shilling small press books that I’d read personally and wanted to champion. It grew from there to include the Vouched Presents reading series and Vouched Online, where I and a handful of contributors link to work published in online journals that we like—curating our little corner of the literary internet, essentially.

As for ambitions, I should probably sit down sometime and really make a list of them. It’s all sort of grown organically so far, to be honest. I don’t have any dream of opening a brick & mortar bookstore, or making it a financially viable endeavor. I just want to promote some work that I really believe in by people who don’t have much of a budget to promote beyond the internet. And the way I’ve found to do that is to go where people are who appreciate art and words, but likely don’t know independent literature exists. If a legit opportunity arises to make Vouched my full-time career, you can bet I’ll own it, but right now, it’s just a hobby; an exercise in literary citizenship.

How do you balance your working life with your literary pursuits/passions?

Honestly, the only way to find a balance is the classic cliché—show up to the page every day. Make time for it. Ideas will never be the problem. A story can come to you when you’re driving to your aunt’s for Christmas. The problem will be sustaining the drive to sit down when you get home from your aunt’s and punch out a draft without having the deadlines you have in school, the drive to write for yourself instead of a grade. It’s easy to be an idealist in college, to think you’re writing for yourself then, but you’re not, and that’s okay. And you’ll find that out a year or so after graduation. Your life will get busy, you’ll have a new roof to afford, a spouse to adore, maybe kids, college loans, a car that breaks down. And unless you say, “No matter how busy life gets, I will write 750 words a day,” you’ll eventually be reduced to jotting an occasional line on a napkin until one day you wake up and remember you wanted to be a writer once. With all faith, you’ll pull those napkins out from the drawer you were keeping them, and start writing.

Are there any other projects, on the web, personal, or otherwise, that you’re involved in?

For the past almost two years, I’ve been working on founding INDYCOG, a blog that grew into a nonprofit organization that works with Indianapolis to promote cycling. But I’ve recently taken a lesser role in that as I focus more on Vouched and other endeavors.

You seem to be very active on the web, as well as knowledgeable about web-based material. What are your thoughts on the web’s effect on literature and how people are adapting to it?

I’m actually working on an essay/guest post for HTMLGiant discussing the explosion of independent music in the late 90’s due to the internet, and how I see the current independent literary community doing the same thing now, albeit a decade late. I think literature is behind the curve in adapting to the web, likely because of the taboo online publishing has had until recently. But, I think as online journals build their legitimacy, as more and more writers and publishers learn to use the internet to promote and build community, the more opportunities will present themselves to literary authors, especially emerging authors. But let’s face it—romance and celebrity memoirs will always outsell literary works, just like even though you hear all sorts of independent music on commercials and TV shows now, Nickelback still outsells Sufjan.

What are some books you’re reading right now, and what are some titles to look for that may be somewhat under the radar?

I’ve just started writing a novel, so I’ve turned my attention to those a bit, reading Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. There’s kind of a lack of novels in the small press world. I just started Matt Bell’s How They Were Found, and I recently finished Mark Neely’s Four of a Kind, both of which deserve to be read. If you’ve not read Sasha Fletcher’s When All Our Days Are Numbered yet, then you’re without. And, if you want to learn how to craft a sentence, Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler.

Top five literary blogs…GO!

In no particular order: HTMLGiant, Bark, We Who Are About to Die, PANK Blog, Big Other.

Any parting advice/wisdom you would like to offer to the students of BSU?

You are not alone.

Guest Post: Tyler Gobble on chapbooks, a DIY medium allowing a variety of options concerning publishing and creativity

You might be asking yourself two things: how in the world did they let you back on here, Tyler Gobble? And what in the world is a chapbook? I can’t really answer the first one, but the second one I’m gonna try.

Avoiding the long history of the chapbook, the way it developed, its historical purposes, etc., I’m going to focus on how the chapbook is used by indie writers, small presses, and even students, focusing on Ball State University.

First, a chapbook is a small print book with a low number of pages, often stapled-bound. Nowadays, the chapbook serves a wide range of purposes, from being a teaser for a forthcoming book to acting as a DIY thing for writers to use (often similar to how local bands use demos to make money and spread their name). With the popularization of ebooks, electronic chapbooks have also become popular in the form of pdfs and webpages. Essentially, chapbooks are a viable medium, I think, for writers as they are relatively inexpensive to produce, less difficult than full length books to create, and easily distributable.

Ball State University has its own realm of professors and students with chapbooks. Creative Writing faculty Sean Lovelace and Mark Neely have recently won chapbook contests for print chapbooks. Former students Shaun Gannon and Daniel Bailey each have their own echapbooks from independent publishers. As students, Gannon and Bailey also self-released their own print chapbooks. Current students Jeremy Bauer and Ryan Rader have also went the DIY route by seeing to their own chapbooks being published. Whether through a contest, a publisher, or self-published, I think it is pretty sweet to see these Ball State affiliated writers have their work published via the chapbook medium.

Now, I want to take a minute to talk to one of these cool dudes, Ryan Rader, about his chapbook.

Interview With Ryan

1.     Can you tell readers about your chapbook (how it came out, when it was released, the process, etc.)?

I wrote a group of poems for a class with Mark Neely, and once I had seen Dan Bailey’s amazing chapbook look at me deeply with great meaning I knew I wanted to do something just like it: simple, small, memorable. A co-worker of mine, Johanna Ofner, was a design major and offered to put together a print version of these poems. I edited them to add a pseudo-narrative and we printed off about seventy copies. I believe this was in 2007, but my memory is fuzzy.

2.     What kind of response did you receive about your chapbook and the poems in it?

Exceptionally positive, especially at such a young age (all of the poems were written when I was eighteen-twenty years old). A couple of the poems had been published in online journals before it was in print; this gave me the confidence to publish other poems myself. It is still the best personal project I have ever done, and I am proud of the results.

3.     What is your opinion on chapbooks as a medium for literary endeavors?

You know how all the cool kids buy their music on vinyl because they love the feel of it? How holding something antiquated and beautiful in their hands and actively moving through the print and the music all at once brings them closer to a pure form of expression? Chapbooks, and really any small press publication, are to publishing what vinyl is to the modern record industry. Definitely a niche market, but a devout one that appreciates a DIY approach combined with professional quality.

4.     What are some chapbooks that you have enjoyed (either print or online)?

Daniel Bailey’s chapbook was my original inspiration; I love every poem in it (“Underwater God” is a favorite). Shaun Gannon’s Casual Glory; or Macaulay Culkin does nothing is, simply, a hoot. Never has vomiting seemed so cool and poetic.

5.     Do you see a difference in productivity/quality/readership between online vs. print chapbooks? Press published vs. self-published?

Since the readership for poetry is criminally small, it seems like fighting over who’s getting more readers is like getting in a bidding war over acres in Antarctica. Quality? Always subjective, especially in the hyper-specialized world of poetry. I want personal exploration and juxtaposed, absurd imagery—others want their poetry tight as a snare drum and loaded with natural beauty. But we are, ultimately, on the same side: trying to get more readers. I think it takes conventional and unconventional means to reach that goal. It’s the same world to me; while I prefer to stick with print, because humanity is obsessed with the tangible, I know that both mediums working in tandem is crucial to the proliferation of new, good, exciting poems.

End.

Two members of last year’s In Print Festival, Matt Bell and Mary Miller, have had chapbooks released by presses. Bell’s first chapbook, How The Broken Lead The Blind, was published by Willow Wept Press in April of 2009, and his second, The Collectors, was published in May of 2009 by Caketrain after being a runner-up in their 2008 Chapbook Contest. Since both of these chapbooks have sold out, they are available as ebooks now. Matt also wrote Wolf Parts, a chapbook released by Keyhole Press last spring in anticipation of his first collection, How They Were Found, in which Wolf Parts and The Collectors appear. Mary Miller’s Less Shiny was released from Magic Helicopter Press in 2009 as a teaser for her first collection, Big World. These examples illustrate how up-and-coming authors can use contests and chapbooks to further push themselves towards full length collections and literary success.

Through websites, like Chapbook Review, small press competitions, and the continuing popularization of DIY art, chapbooks are a respectable medium in the literary world. I pick up a chapbook, and I am like, “HEY I CAN MAKE THAT.” Then, I open it up and there are these words like beautiful hellos and I shake my head at how wonderful all these words are. For me, chapbooks are accessible, awesome, fun, interesting, and useful because they are nice simple bundles of literary booyeah.