For Immediate Release – This summer, six alumni from the Department of English’s Creative Writing Program are teaming up for a unique poetry tour throughout the U.S. The goal: to help libraries and community centers create and sustain poetry programming.
“When I’m asked what I do, and I say that I’m a poet, most people answer with ‘Oh, I’d like to do that’ or ‘I used to write poetry,’” said Ben Pelhan (DC’06). “Not everyone organizes their lives around it, but in our own teaching experience, we find that all people need to make poems is the space and time. And maybe a little encouragement.”
Pelhan and five of his friends from his CMU undergrad days – Adam Atkinson (DC’05), Lillian-Yvonne Bertram (DC’06), Zachary Harris (DC’07), Anne Marie Rooney (DC’07) and S.E. Smith (DC’05) – came up with the idea of Line Assembly as a way to work together again. After spending the past several years scattered throughout the country pursuing MFAs and teaching and writing careers, the group will reunite this summer for a poetry road trip.
Starting the last weekend of June in Pittsburgh, Pa., the group will take their poetry show – Line Assembly – on the road. Their act includes poetry readings, workshops and a performance – as well as leave behind materials to help each location build a lasting poetry community.
“If anyone can pull this off, it’s this group,” said Jim Daniels, the Thomas Stockham Baker Professor of English. “They have spirit, energy, enthusiasm, and, of course, talent. Also, these alums were all very active in organizing readings and literary activities while they were students here, so I know they have both the literary and organizational chops. It’s a great project—the kind of thing I would’ve loved to be involved in myself in my early days as a writer. They represent the best of creative writing at Carnegie Mellon, and I can’t wait to see them cruise into Pittsburgh on the tour.”
At each of the 20+ stops, the poets will read from their latest work, including Bertram’s “But a Storm Is Blowing From Paradise” (Red Hen Press, 2012), Harris’s “There Is Another Poem…” (New Michigan Press, 2011), Rooney’s “Spitshine” (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2012), and Smith’s “I Live In a Hut” (CSU Press, 2012). They will also run workshops that will incorporate different writing exercises, depending on the participants’ ages and needs.
To bring awareness to how critical public funding is for arts education and forming art communities, they will perform “People Against Poetry.” For the project, which originated in English Professor Terrance Hayes Readings in Contemporary Poetry: Out Poetry class, the poets will act out roles of anti-poetry advocates.
To make Line Assembly a reality – as well as produce a leave-behind zine about creative community formation and film a documentary of the entire trip, Pelhan and the group are applying for grants. And on Sunday, March 31, they will launch a Kickstarter campaign.
“Each of these writers is a former student of mine and I continue to believe in them and what they are attempting,” said Gerald Costanzo, professor of English and director of Carnegie Mellon University Press. “Each is an accomplished writer; collectively they will constitute a tour de force (pun intended). Those whom they encounter will find their message about the value of poetry in our lives to be irresistible.”
“At CMU, we were really important to each other as friends and as peers in writing,” Pelhan said. “In some places people feel isolated from this kind of community. That shouldn’t be the case.”