Saturday, December 14, 2013

Final Reflection

Chris Moriarty
14 Dec 2013
Community Work Reflections

     The work that I undertook this semester was at first a very intimidating prospect, even though I was working with one of the teacher's who helped shape me the most as both a writer and aspiring educator. Tom Zimmerman is the Director of the Washtenaw Community College Writing Center. Along with this, he also teaches English classes, goes to school at Eastern Michigan, and runs both the poetry club of WCC and its literary journals. His dedication to WCC is what made me want to work for him. I extended my ability as professional editor, having been an English tutor for four years, to help him craft the WCC's literary journals in whatever way I could help.

     His faith in me as a writer and reader put a lot of pressure on me. There was not a tremendous amount of guidance in putting this zine together. Mostly, I learned through trial and error and the minimal amount of time that me and Tom spent together because of our busy schedules. He had faith in my ability to make a zine through every step of the processes. I had an idea from the get go about doing class room visits that were a little unorthodox. Since I've worked at WCC for four years, I've gotten to know the English staff quite well and I relied on them to get a majority of the submissions for the zine. So, I would go to the class like how most class visits start—I would introduce myself, the journals that WCC offers, the submission processes, the types of submissions taken, and then do read a poem or two of mine that had been published in back catalogs. Normally, this is where you would leave a class visit when patronizing for submissions, but in fact, I chose to stay (as long as the teacher approved of it). Since the classes I was visiting were mostly introductory creative writing classes, I would finish my bit and then stay for the rest of the class as students would present their work for a group critique. This gave me a chance to connect to the writers at WCC in a special way that isn't normally used when trying to get people to submit their writing for a publication. I connected with them, offered suggestions, and admired their work. I could tell I made an impact because as I was leaving the class, the many of the students thanked me for my thoughts on their work and also conversed about submitting something for WCC's publicaitons.

     Another facet of the work that I did for Tom involved trying to get money allotted for both of the schools literary journal to be applied for a limited print copy of The Big Windows Review, which up until now, had been an entirely online journal. This involved setting up a meeting with the head of the English department, Kerry Krantz, and discussing with her whether or not the small amount needed for this print would be allocated. After meeting with her, she seemed happy to make a little room in the budget for the publication by offsetting the costs onto next year's publications—looks like it's back to e-journals. However, I was proud to advocate for a small journal and I was happy to see so many of the students at WCC get a chance to see their work in a smaller publication and have a chance to read it at an open mic. I saw many of the faces that I had seen earlier in the class visits and I knew that my approach in looking for submissions was at least some what successful.
In the spirit of learning, I also put together the entire zine myself (with some technical assistance from Tom). He instructed me to use Microsoft Publisher as the program for organization because it offers a level of control that is necessary when altering line breaks in longer submissions. This became apparently useful when dealing with some of the poems with very long lines. I felt strange cutting and splicing another writer's work (although it was not much different than the textual treatments we discussed in class) and I wondered if my stylistic choice on line breaks where noticeable or perhaps against the writer's wishes for how they want their work to appear. This part of my community participation also caused me the most frustration. The processes for aggregating the work and formatting it was very tedious. Also, copy editing can be a bit of pain when there are a lot of submissions. And of course, thanks to the many failures of technology, two hours of work was somehow obliterated off of the computer because of some kind of computer glitch and I had to start over from the very beginning. Although I was frustrated, I was under a deadline for getting the journal published so that it could be handed out at the reading. I worked over my frustration and delivered an even better zine to Tom than I could have ever hoped for.

      After completing the zine, Tom took over and printed it for me through his connections with the school and delivered me a large stack of bright orange Big Windows Reviews. I felt so relieved to have it done and all within a few days of the reading. Now, I had to organize the open mic. As for a feature, I went with my brother Mike, author of The Ill Lad and The Odd Emcee, and upcoming singer/songwriter. I chose him because, well, I'm a broke college student and can't afford to pay someone to read. However, I knew that his performative style would draw a crowd and fill in seats for what might have been a smallish reading because of the nature of the publication. This was probably the most boring part of the whole experience. I don't really like setting up chairs, or microphones, or amps. And I really don't like having to put all of that away. However, the reading itself was a great way to cut loose and relax as most of my time commitment was completed by then. I read a short piece which I included in the book, Mike did a set of songs and poems, and all most everyone published in the Big Windows Review read a selection of their work.

     In consideration with what my time here at Eastern has been like, and specifically the creative writing department, I found that this class, my volunteer work, and my group project have been a tremendously helpful experience in understanding where I fit in with the world of writing, teaching, reading and artistic expression. The work I did on this publication has shown me that I have a passion for putting work together in a creative way, which also coincides with my interest in the work we did with the textual treatment. I really have been craving for something other than just writing to express my fixation within writing and the community of Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti. This experience, and the community collaborations class as a whole, has been a fascinating and enlightening experience in regards to expanding my ability as a writer and participant in the writing community. I believe that working on something as removed from the actual writing processes as being a editor for a journal has taught me that fullfilment in writing is a). an extension of being fulfilled in a communal sense and b). a collaborative effort that supports itself through cooperation and dedication. 

     This was also a great multimedia experience that I wasn't entirely prepared for. Having never constructed a document outside of Microsoft Word, learning how to organize text and images into a readable document was a very rewarding process. I'm now considering taking some visual art classes to supplement what I've learned so far about constructing images and text in a digestible format. 

     On a final note, I think that this has been a very positive experience for me and I would recommend this class to anyone who thinks they want to be in the writing community, but doesn't know where they fit. It provided me with a sense of fulfillment that has long been missing from both my personal writing and reading.

Outside Event #2

Literati Reading: Bonnie Jo Campbell

On a cold blustery night, the snow cascaded down for hours while Bonnie Jo Campbell lead a reading and discussion on her short story, poetry, and fiction writing. Bonnie is a writer I am personally familiar with and I waited to finish my outside event requirement until she was in town.

Her writing is considered working-class or blue collar. She explained at the reading that her mother was a horse trader living in Michigan and that she grew up in a farm setting. Her writing, while not entirely pastoral, has notes of reminiscence long forgot and and a tingling nostalgia for Midwestern simplicity.

Her reading began with poetry which was exciting because I was only familiar with her short stories. While not at all expiremental, her poetry embraced a richness of imagery that often is left unwritten. She showed a desire to stick to a topic and ride it out and until every metaphor she needs is completed. Her poems also regress away from proselytizing and she mentioned the difference between herself and a writer like Flannery O'Connor is that O'Connor has a faith in God that her stories' characters can believe--Bonnie's character's only have Bonnie.

Her humor was an excellent segue into the harsher realities of her short story "The Solution to Brian's Problem" which details a particularly difficult subject which is, none the less, the transverse image of what is expected for a story like that.

The stories format is quite interesting. It is a running list of solutions being poised by a second person narration about how to deal with an abusive wife who is addicted to crystal meth. The character Brian, who funcitons as the "you" of the story articulates the grusome reality of dealing with someone who is so addicted to drugs that that person will pawn other peoples belongings.

Brian's solutions range from talking to counselors, cutting her meth with Drano, or just beating her senseless until she dies. It is a shockingly honest appraisal of addiciton and offers a unique example of the usual drug addict narrative.

I truly enjoyed Bonnie's reading and she was very informative as to how her writing processes worked when I asked her about writing poetry, short stories and novels. She offered me the advice that writing, no matter what form or genre, must be written through an urge. Otherwise, the story or image or concept will fall flat of the goal of making someone feel something.

She openly admitted to fully appreciating mellow-drama as a form and I thought that her explanations for her love of donkeys really showed what a genuine person she is.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Outside Event

Review of John Marshall's Pennystamps Lecture: Yes. The Space-time Continuum

John Marshall's approach to art began, as he put it, through sculpture. However, he quickly transcended medium and began working along the fringes of many different forms and established realms in art/construction. 

His lecture primarily focused on his continued work with artist in the Michigan area. But he hails from Scotland (with an awesome accent). The work he has been doing here presents are really interesting approach to communal spaces. One of the pieces he pointed out was an installation in Detroit made out of beach balls and LEDs. This structure was meant to be interacted with much like how my group project planned to have our Water Street Sign interacted with (meaning, however the public wanted). This type of structure challenges the precepts of sculputres--which are normally static and non-interactive--for the purpose of engaging with passersby. These transients stop to observe, but are drawn into playing with the object and engaging with a community of people.

He admits that his work is meant to engage with play and humor. He wants his art taken seriously, but not in an alienating way. His project on post-apocalypse shelters highlights his humor in a very dark, but meaningful way. He constructed a "bug-out" tent, which is to avoid being seen by drones. He set up this installation at the abandoned airway which at some point in its history housed the Enola Gay before and after its fateful trip. He wants people to be aware of space as a functional site, but also as a historical jump off point for work that is engaged with social histories.

The best part of his presentation was his ability to flux between academic and application. He wants his art to be applicable to modernity, but he is aware that there is an academic tint to all of his work. He diagrams this dichotomy in a very interesting way. He plotted lines which represented things like architecture and construction, sculpture and building, etc. He then detailed in seprate lines where these things no longer represent one or the other. These liminal spaces are the places in which Marshall's art exists. His lecture was very enlightening and his work engaging. I took a great interest in his development as an artist and would like to see the same approach in myself.

Conducting the Reading

I've got the Big Window's Review 5 in my hand it feels great to see my hard work manifest as a collection of excellent poetry. I organized the reading and flyerd at WCC to spread the word about the reading.

There was an amazing turnout on Friday night.

Many of the people who appeaered in the book came to read a sample of their published work(s) or to read something that wasn't included.

Even a few of the students from classes I visited came.

Tom introduced me very graciously so I could start the open mic. It wasn't an enormous crowd, so there would often be discussions on the poem after the reader finished or friendly comments and laughter.

Afterwards, I brought Mike, my brother, up to stage to perform a set of songs and poems. He was a big hit and I couldn't have been more pleased with the mini mixer after the reading. Many people came up to me a thanked me for putting together the first print journal of the Big Windows Review. I felt really rewarded for this. And wouldn't hesitate to help Tom again.

I also got to walk away from this with some great learning and experience with putting together a chapbook in Microsoft Publisher. I'm very happy with how the project turned out and will use the information I've learned to put together my own writing collections in the future.

Friday Nov 22
2 hours prep for reading--setting up mics, setting up amp, organizing space, doing sound check, etc
1.5 hours hosting reading
.5 hours clean-up

Friday, December 6, 2013

Working on the website

Me and Tom have been working on the website for  a few days now. Tom has been telling me all about how the reading was a huge hit and that he was really impressed with the layout of the book, but now we're moving on to getting the website publication of Big Windows Review #5 ready to be publised on blogspot.

The work I've been doing has mostly been formatting each page of the physical publication as a different page of the website which can be a little bit of a headache considering how long it took to put I'm deconstructing it to be organized in a more electronically friendly way.

Along with putting together the website, I've been reviewing and grading submissions for the Huron River Review, WCC's annual literary publication.

Basically, I go through a set of random submissions with names redcated and give the piece of writing a score on a scale of 1-10 to deterimine where it stands compared to every other piece of writing. Each submission is graded twice by a different person to avoid byas.

Other than that I've just been trudging along with class and work, but I've really enjoyed my time working for Tom this semester and I now understand the  vast amount of work that he spearheads every semester.

Cheer's Chris


2 hours working on website
1 hour working on other submissions
1 hour writing emails about submissions. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

BathHouse Review

Before attending both of the Kearney/Bryant readings I had a reasonable understanding of the word diaspora. But along with this term, Kearney and Bryant introduced me to a new word—Textual Orality. This term is a new look at performative language on and off the page, it is a processes and a system of thought that is self-reflexive. What I found most profound about the panel/reading was the literal demonstrations of Textual Orality.

For Kearney, Textual Orality manifested as a critical re-discovering of his written text The Black Automaton, as well as something he refereed to as “critical karaoke.” He amazed me with his ability to manipulate the readability of his book; he would have audience members score different poems in the book. Then, he would read the text based off what they had written. For him, in that moment, Textual Orality was breathing life into a passive event—a lecture/poetry reading—and turning it into a group activity that can change at a whim. Next, he performed a critical karaoke of Ice Cube's “Natural Born Killaz.” His approach to both the form of hip-hop and karaoke collide in a song of conflict and friction. He would sing over Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, interrupt their verses, and inject controversy into their semantics.

Along with this, Bryant approached Textual Orality with writing and performance, as well. First, she showed a slide-show describing/defining what Textual Orality—also rewriting the frames of the show as they were being shown. She transitioned into her book Unexplained Presence by explaining her processes for writing the book and then showing an image that was an ekphrasis in the actual book. Her idea of leaving something out of the book, in it and of itself, is a form of Textual Orality that represents and acts as a diaspora in the text and as a reflection of Black art/writing.

Together, Bryant and Kearney made for an incredible show and brought attention to a new type of thought and processes when engaging with art, especially art arising from Black culture. However, Textual Orality is in no way limited to Black art. Textual Orality, as I have come to know it is a living, breathing art form that requires an attentive audience—one which is willing to approach difficulties in forms of representation. This can, in my mind, be extended to any other culture or art form. Walking away from this lecture, I have determined that my writing can, and at times, must be more aware of the Textual/Oral approach to reading and writing because of how much subtext can be missed if it is not given out to the audience. However, this reminds me of Bryant's missing images from her book and how my desire to recreate this images in my head affects my reading of her text. Ultimately, Textual Orality exists as a multi-dimensional work that challenges preconceptions about art and how one should think of it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Organizing a Reading

After completing my class visits, which consisted of creative writing classes, handing out handbills, giving a quick breakdown of the publication efforts of WCC to get their students published both on-line and in-text, and actually participating in the classes creative writing workshops as an experienced writer and creative writing student, I began to plan an open-mic with a feature.

First, I approached Tom about having this reading at the WCC Writing Center and Tom seemed excited about it. He told me that he could get a PA system and a mic and that we could schedule it on a Friday night after the Writing Center closed for students.

My next problem was finding a feature who would perform for little to no payment. After scowering my brain for people who I would like to do a poetry reading, I drew a blank. However, I remembered that my brother, a former EMU Creative Writing major, has been doing open-mic performances for singers/songwriters. I asked him if he would consider doing a set of music and poems and he agreed.

The date was set for the Friday November 22nd.

The next thing I had to do was read through all of the submissions and to begin constructing a zine.



1.5 Hour planning event