from grading essays the night before until 4 a.m. I fumbled over the radio presets and stopped when I heard Zevon dolefully revealing that he was hiding away in Honduras. I fell back into my last trip to New Orleans as the song gave way to commercial, with Warren making one hell of a lot of sense to me.
And then everything in my head seemed to run together.
Logan Venderlic. Who the hell was Logan Venderlic? I knew that name, but my thoughts returned to Lafitte’s jaw-locking absinthe and what I didn’t fully remember from the remainder of that trip.
Then it hit me. Of course. “Greenville.” This was the poem published the month before in the Undergrad Column for Connotation Press. And this Venderlic guy was the one who wrote it.
I passed the turn-off that eventually circles around to my house and kept driving. I had to hear that song.
For me, this is what the Undergraduate Column has meant – one tremendous surprise after another from truly talented young artists submitting truly superb writing. The Undergraduate Column officially re-launched a little less than six months ago and we’ve been able to publish a half-dozen young writers: Matti Miller, Travis Green, Logan Venderlic, Julia Paganelli, Shawn Hampton, and Christina Marie Gutierrez. I probably shouldn’t take the liberty of speaking for the undergrads that have appeared in Connotation Press, but I imagine it’s pretty damned exciting to be published next to poet laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners. But, what’s even more exciting for me is the thought that the artists we’re publishing, many of which are seeing their work in print for the first time, might be the writers twenty years from now who others are clamoring to be published alongside.
One of the first submissions I received after becoming the column’s editor was Matti Miller’s, “Writing is a Battlefield.” Twelve years teaching college comp classes had prepared me to not expect much from undergrads who thought themselves writers. I guess I was fearful I’d be reading submissions from those who so often brood behind heavy-framed glasses while scrolling through a Facebook newsfeed over a Panera bagel. Ah, so you like Kerouac and Bukowski is a genius? Ok.
But here was Matti Miller who kicked the hell out of my fears. I mean, she can write. If you haven’t read her piece, go do it. Now. She confronts those conventions of what it means to “write properly” and simply shows us all what writing really can be. It’s something that connects but isn’t contrived. It lacks pretense but has presence. It’s a piece that couldn’t have been more fitting for the column’s re-launch.
And it continued.
Submissions came from Travis Greenand then Logan Venderlic. Green provided a grip of poems that gnashed its teeth in its rawness. Read Green’s “Uncle Dave Rocking the Night Away” and you’ll feel his voice more that you’ll hear it. Venderlic’s artistry is similarly on display in “Greenville.”
And it continued.
The following month featured the work of Shawn Hampton, “Go Play in Traffic.” As our Editor-in-Chief noted, “We really enjoyed this work and especially liked the way that just when you think it’s going to go in a clichéd direction, he turns it on a new, wonderfully fresh image.” Yep, Ken, Hampton has given us one hell of a poem.
We wrapped up this year with Christina Marie Gutierrez’s narrative, “Eddoo.” Gutierrez’s introspective presentation is entrenched with a tremendous complexity of emotion. Her voice is starkly real and the narrative delves into spaces that many have difficulty entering.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t express sincere appreciation to my assistant editors, Faith Kline and Bryan Foley, for all the work they’ve done in helping to make this column successful. The countless hours “behind the scenes” don’t go unnoticed. Thanks, guys.
So, six months in to the Undergraduate Column’s re-launch and we’ve published six exceptional and exciting undergraduate writers. But, this is simply the beginning. Throughout the upcoming year, we’ll be accepting submissions for all creative writing genres. If you’re a writer still in college, submit your work.
How are we doing on the pig kickin’, K?
Oh, and Venderlic’s song…it was worth putting off coming home.