Wednesday, March 13, 2019

tiny empires, big world

Another A of R Hustle panel put to bed and the biggest takeaway from tonight's discussion was the amazing breadth of the publishers/editors coming out of Columbia College on a regular basis.  Represented were Lettered Streets Press, Ghost Proposal, and Hotel Amerika & Switchback Books, all Columbia originals.   Someone asked if that sort of legacy of start-ups was distinct to Columbia among other area institutions, and maybe it's not, but I don't see as much DIY action coming from other Chicago grad programs.  At least not enough to host a panel and still have others out there I do not know about or are probably developing even now.  I don't think it was anything about the program itself that may have caused this--at least curricular-wise.  I jumped over to an elective in Fiction for that Small Press Publishing class, but that was atypical, and eventually not allowed. It was still a really young program in its first few years getting its bearings.  But slowly people began doing things.

I started dancing girl in the fall of my second year.  Other batches of students came in who launched Switchback Books soon after.   After I graduated, more presses continued and sprung up. (Susan Yount's Arsenic Lobster, for example ) Not just presses, but reading series (The Dollhouse, Revolving Door, among others.)  Columbia always did a good job placing students in internships in places like local lit mags and the Poetry Foundation, but also so much was happening in the realm of DIY initiatives, either individuals or collectively.

Looking back over all the things that have developed in that incubator, you have to be impressed by the depth and number.  Also how people float between projects and how some flow into and influence others. There seems to be a great swell in that sort of energy regardless of whatever sort of writing the students are doing coming into or out of the program. Maybe it's a certain  "get in the muck and do things" unique to a place like Columbia--that makes me immensely grateful I both get to work there and got to get my degree there.

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