Apr 27

Issue IV, Volume VI : March 2015

Ken Robidoux, Editor-in-Chief: October 2013

Me-Suit Welcome to Issue II, Volume V: October 2013 of Connotation Press: An Online Artifact.

I started writing my blog tonight with a moment of reflection on the gorgeous changing leaves here in West Virginia— some innocuous, passive statement about happy and colors on the rust palate and apple harvests and scarecrows. And as I worked through the Normal Rockwell tasting regurgitation rising up in my throat I wondered if there wasn’t another option for my note this month.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the fall. It’s pretty and, you know, whatever. Rust. Black/Orange. Flannel. Rain days. I get it. But the truth is my heart just isn’t in it. There’s something else more pressing on my mind lately. And as much as I shy away from politics here on my blog (after all you’re here for the art, right?), I feel compelled to invest some time tonight discussing what’s going on. 

In addition to publishing and editing Connotation Press, I also work at two colleges. I’ve been working at colleges since 2002. At times my title has been TA, Lecturer, Professor, and Adjunct although my job has remained unchanged through the entire run. I teach college classes. It’s as simple as that. I have focused my skill sets into three specific components: how to communicate in a business environment—including a comprehensive look at ethics, how to think critically, and how to appreciate the arts and discuss it with others.

I love what I do and by all accounts I’ve been successful at it. I have a stack of stellar evals from students, public recognition for the work my students have done, and I was once nominated for an Outstanding Teacher & Mentor award from the University of Southern California Parents Association.

Good times.

In addition to interacting with and helping to develop the writing, interpreting, and appreciating art skills of some amazing students over the years, I’ve also had the misfortune of working in a business that seems entirely hell-bent on creating an environment in which people like me are expected to work seemingly endless hours and in my case dividing time between two campuses while living on about $15,000 a year for teaching nine classes. That is below the national poverty level for a Master’s Degree holding, ten-plus years of experience, lauded educator teaching 150% of the full-time workload of three-and-three I previously taught at the University level. I have no medical benefits. I have no retirement program. I have no job security whatsoever. I need not even be fired if my services are not required anymore as all that has to be done is to simply not renew my contract.

Recently, there has been a political movement here in West Virginia to end the ability for an adjunct instructor to work more than two classes total at all state schools combined. There is also a hiring freeze for full-time faculty. I currently teach two with a third coming mid-semester at one state-run college, and two at another state university. I take home far less than $2000 a month, but if I were only able to teach a total of two classes per semester I would certainly have to give up teaching, you know, so I could eat and not be homeless and stuff. And I am far-and-away in the majority here, friends. My story isn’t the least bit unique.

Today I was invited to an upcoming meeting of adjunct instructors to investigate our options. The word “Union” has been tossed around.

I will be as clear as I can here. I did not get into teaching to be a politician. I didn’t get into teaching to fight high-paid administration members that are getting raises and private bathroom additions to their offices while the income of my peers and I are being slashed, especially when the job of those administration members is actually to facilitate what we teachers do so we can help the students achieve what they have entrusted us to help them do. Further, I did not get into this job to fight self-aggrandized C-student politicians kissing crony ass and slashing pay to state funded teaching institutions—cuts that always inevitably slice through the craned necks of my peers and I. Nope. I didn’t sign up for this.

However, here is what I did sign up for: I currently teach LIT II: Poetry at a small state university’s satellite school. Many of my students are nontraditional. None, not one of my students, is an English major. Many are in trade-related programs. They are tough bricklayers, security guards, even tougher moms, aviators, divorced parents, musicians, hell, I’ve even got a prize fighter. I’ve got some traditional students, too. And all of them, every damn one of them, bust their brains wide open twice a week to learn and discuss and gain insight from contemporary poetry. They give their best to me every class—lay it right there on the table. I get the privilege of watching them get things and of watching stuff fly over their heads, and I am never less than inspired by their efforts to gleam some greater meaning from the text. There is nothing better than watching them connect with the art.

My students are a blessing. They restore my faith in teaching every day in class, and they remind me to keep fighting against a system so damaged as to have every sign but a countdown clock mounted to the top of its hallowed halls that all is far worse than not well-- it’s about to come crashing down. 

NO, I don’t want to go to a damn union organizing meeting of adjuncts who union or not will most likely never have any kind of usable leverage against those who hold all the cards. NO, I don’t want to spend one minute of my very rare off-time from grading papers doing anything but spending it with the folks I care about and working on my own art. NO, I don’t want to hear people yelling and arguing. I did not sign up for this. NO. NO. NO! 

But I most certainly will attend this meeting because the students of my LIT II: Poetry class has proven there is a reason to fight. The students of my composition classes, too. And because once they’ve driven those of us away that care about teaching the students something valuable they can use to navigate through life, classes like mine will cease to be offered because isn't that always the way? Someone has to help the less-engaged among us, who not surprisingly make all the rules, to understand why what we do is invaluable and not something just for people who "can’t do." 

And one of the best things, the very best things is that I have abandoned the book I was given when I received the 48 hours of notice that I got prior to the start of the LIT II: Poetry class I teach, and am blessed to teach exclusively from the pages of Connotation Press. What a rush! And now, after a deep and reinvigorating breath of cold, fresh, fall West Virginia air, let’s kick this pig and see what it’ll do.

This month we have another over-the-top cool Featured Guest Editor in the form of Canadian poet Jenna Butler. Jenna delivers a wonderful collection from our north of the border friends in Canada, launching with powerful poetry by and an excellent interview with poet and critic Douglas Barbour. From there Jenna has strong offerings from Lorri Neilsen Glenn, Catherine Owen, Yvonne Blomer,
rob mclennan, Gregory Betts, Erin Moure, Dennis Cooley, Marita Dachsel, Claire Sharpe, and Glen Sorestad. We are great fans of Canadian poets here at Connotation Press, and we welcome this outstanding group of authors. We’re ginormous fans of Jenna, too. Thanks, everyone!

A Poetry Congeries with John Hoppenthaler welcomes in October with John’s blog note on the sad and far too early passing of the incomparable Seamus Heaney. From there John interviews his featured artist, Rick Hilles, and delivers new poetry from Rick that will floor you. From there John fires into October with new work from Leslie Adrienne Miller, Kevin Boyle, Marcus Jackson, Anna Claire Hodge, Ed Madden, Javier Zamora, and William Kelley Woolfitt. Welcome to all the new authors, and thanks again for another terrific month John.

October’s The Third Form with Erica Goss looks at the impact of video poetry on book sales. She starts her column this month with the question, “When is a video poem more than a video poem?” And she immediately answers, “When it’s a book trailer.” Erica looks at trailers promoting the work of Robert Krut, Annie Finch, Brooks Books, Connotation Press favorite Adrian C. Louis, and Sandra Beasley. Interesting and gorgeous visual promotional art here, friends. Good stuff. Thanks, Erica!

Book Review Editor Julia Bouwsma looks at In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods this month, the freshman novel from the extraordinary Matt Bell. Julia gives the collection a glowing review and encourages book review writers to contact her if they have any reviews they’re trying to place. You can reach her through the submission page at the top right of the magazine. Great piece this month, Julia. Thanks!

Up next, John Turi, our all-things-wine go to guy, takes his column A Drinker with a Writing Problem to Grgich Hills Estate in Napa Valley to look at their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon varietal. And speaking of words like “varietal,” John takes a little time this month to work on our wine vocabularies and help us keep from sounding like idiots when some highfalutin folks invite us to their wine tasting parties. Okay, maybe that’s a bit overkill, but developing a working vocabulary does nothing but help when we’re trying to find a good wine, and that is the entire focus of John’s column: to help us find a wine we can enjoy. Thanks, John!

Finally, our featured Fiction and Creative Nonfiction artists for our first October post are from Fiction, Tom Hazuka complete with an interview conducted by Editor Meg Tuite, and from Creative Nonfiction Editor Robert Clark Young we have new work by Jamie O’Neill. We remind you the entirety of our Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Drama, and Artisan Review columns go LIVE on the 15th of the month, so please feel welcome to come back and enjoy more of the strong, exciting work our editors bring month after month after month.

Well, that’s it folks. Yes, I will go to the adjunct union discussion meeting, but to be honest it’ll be hard not to fade into staring out the window at the stunning, multi-colored leaves gracefully air-swimming through and into the fall. 

All best,

Ken Robidoux
Publisher/Founding Editor-in-Chief

Connotation Press: That Sign Was Made For You And Me

October 15, 2013

We welcome to Issue II, Volume V: September 2013 of Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, the artists of our mid-month post:

Editor Kaitlin Hillenbrand introduces the artists she and our poetry team chose for Issue II, Volume V: Treasure Shields Redmond with videos and an interview by Associate Editor J P Reese,Katherine Soniat, Colin Pope, John Riley, Nance Van Winckel, Burgess Needle, J Divina Erickson, and Jennifer Jackson Berry.


Editor Meg Tuite celebrates the Fall & return of October with another group of outstanding fictionistas including new work by and an interview with Craig M. Workman, and stories by Ron Burch, Arielle Bernstein, V. A. Smith, Cully Perlman, and Sara Sarai.

Creative Nonfiction

Editor Robert Clark Young delivers four Creative Nonfiction authors to delight the senses and crank up the memory: Lois Red Elk, Lily Stejskal, Michelle Menting, and Lois A. Engel

Editor Kathleen Dennehy interviews playwright Suzanne Bradbeer and presents her stunning play, "Naked Influence," in its entirety.

Artisan Review

Editor Brittany Connolly introduces us to commercial sculptor Sue Beatrice who works in Mock Stained Glass.