Thursday, December 29, 2011
Ibbetson Street Press/Endicott College: An Affiliation. A Literary Community.
By Doug Holder
I have always been a proponent of a literary community to nurture young writers. Many a graduate of MFA programs have told me that the most important part of their experience was the community they were involved in for a couple of years. The chance to be with folks of their ilk and sensibility in a creative environment was at the top of their list. So I had this in mind when the affiliation between Endicott College and the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, Mass. was formed in Sept. 2010. The mission of the affiliation as we see it is to connect students with the greater Boston area literary scene, involve them in writing book reviews, interviews, and poetry, as well as literary activism--to make them solid literary citizens.
Since the affiliation has started at Endicott we have begun a Visiting Author Series that has connected students with prominent literary figures in the community. Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish, Vivian Shipley ( Editor of the Connecticut Review),Gary Metras ( Founder of the Adastra Press), Mark Pawlak ( Hanging Loose Press), Luke Salisbury, (The Answer is Baseball) poets Miriam Levine, Bert Stern,(Steerage) and Tom Daley have appeared. Upcoming features include: De Witt Henry (Founder of Ploughshares Magazine) and performance artist Michael Mack. We have also had writers in the classroom like Timothy Gager, Gloria Mindock, Jennifer Jean, Zvi A. Sesling, Steve Glines, Li Min Mo, January O'Neil and Paul Steven Stone. Students have and will be given the opportunity to network with these people and in some cases interview them (The Endicott Observer has on a number of occasions) as well as explore internship opportunities.
Students have also been involved with the Ibbetson Street magazine as well. Katie Clarke, an English major, interviewed Pulitzer Prize winning poet Maxine Kumin for one issue, and we plan to have another student interview acclaimed poet Marge Piercy for the June 2012 issue.
An offshoot of the Ibbetson Street Press is a well-known literary blog the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene. Here poetry, fiction and prose works from the large world of the small press are reviewed. English majors have reviewed books by such authors as Tom Perrotta, Lois Ames ( Who wrote the Notes to Plath's Bell Jar), and other poets and writers. These reviews are read by a significant swath of the literary community.
It is important for students to see their work in print. I am a columnist and Arts Editor for The Somerville News, as well as the Book Review Editor for the Wilderness House Literary Review. In that capacity I have published high quality poetry, prose, and reviews from Endicott students. I have worked with students to make sure their pieces are ready to be published. I have also published poetry by faculty as well, which includes a number of accomplished poets such as Dan Sklar, Margaret Young, Deborah Finkelstein, and Abigail Bottome to name a few. It is good for students to be aware there are a number practitioners of the art in their midst.
Ibbetson Street has long realized the importance of libraries for the "center to hold" in a literary community. For that reason I have worked with the Halle library, its director Brian Courtemanche, as well as the Dean of Humanities Mark Herlihy,and Professor Dan Sklar ( Both of whom are instrumental in all aspects of the affiliation) to create a small press collection in the tradition of the University of Buffalo, Brown University, and the University of Wisconsin/Madison. We have received a large number of books from regional, national, and even international authors that are being entered into the catalog as we speak.
Another component that the affiliation offers are internship opportunities. Students have been introduced to people affiliated with the famed Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Harvard Square, Hanging Loose Press ( U/Mass Boston), Mass. Poetry Festival, MassLeap, and other organizations and prominent writers in the vicinity.
Our hope through all of this is to create a vibrant literary community for students. We want a place where students will grow as writers, as well as explore tangible opportunities as working writers that they will use long after they leave the campus.