What is Line Assembly?
Line Assembly is a collective of six emerging poets—Adam Atkinson, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Zach Harris, Ben Pelhan, Anne Marie Rooney, and S.E. Smith—embarking on an ambitious, unique tour of readings and workshops in summer 2013. Oh, and we’re filming the whole thing, too!
We met as undergraduates in the creative writing program at Carnegie Mellon University and forged a lasting friendship over a mutual love for poetry and the literary arts. Since then, we’ve been busy—getting MFAs in writing, publishing books, receiving awards, and teaching at all levels from primary schools to liberal arts colleges to senior centers. While we've come from different places, we have all evolved into multidisciplinary artists who share an indebtedness to community experiences with poetry in our early childhoods and adolescence—most notably in branch libraries, writing groups, and independent bookstores that hosted readings and fostered grassroots literary activity. These places and programs are close to our hearts!
But what will Line Assembly do exactly?
So! We will provide free-of-cost workshops to libraries and community groups, donate books of contemporary poetry, and develop a resource magazine (zine) that provides helpful tips on starting and sustaining poetry reading and writing groups, hosting productive workshops, and creating exciting and challenging writing exercises. Our trip will also include guerrilla performances of People Against Poetry, an interactive performance pioneered by Adam Atkinson and S.E. Smith in which (unsuspecting) participants often find themselves advocating passionately for the importance of keeping poetry and literary arts programs in public schools. This entire adventure will be documented on camera by Ben Pelhan (an experienced filmmaker in addition to being a poet) along with secondary camera operator, and will be produced as a documentary capturing the ways and places in which poetry is very much alive in these United States.
We will give back to and honor the importance of community literary arts programs! Unlike most reading tours that focus on the presentation of the author’s work, our tour will combine readings with free poetry and literary arts workshops at libraries and community spaces around the country. We may have advanced degrees, but no one needs a degree to write a poem or to love a poem. We want to engage, in lively and productive ways, with the vast network of poets and writers that perhaps go unacknowledged by the mainstream poetry and literature world because they write outside of the academy.
According to a recent Washington Post op-ed, poetry is dead. Wait—what?! Our personal experiences contradict this notion, as does our knowledge that a great deal of poetry writing and literary arts (if not most of it) is alive and thriving outside the institutions of higher education. Our combined experiences working in different communities have shown us the importance of acknowledging and sustaining grassroots literary activity, as well as the necessity, especially in these tough economic times, of accessible spaces and venues for people of all walks of life to engage with poetry and literature. Local community spaces nurtured us, and we want to repay that generosity without which our trajectories would not have been possible.
Won’t you need help to pull this off?
Oh yes, you bet! And we already have some. So far, we have secured the moral support of mentors like poet Terrance Hayes (winner of the 2010 National Book Award for Poetry); publishers like Red Hen Press; reading series like BONK! in Racine, WI; events like the NYC Poetry Festival; and community organizations like the Just Buffalo Literary Center and Pittsburgh Filmmakers, as well as the Lancaster Public Library and the Library as Incubator Project in Madison, WI. We're adding more every day so keep on eye out for updates!
With a combined 30+ years of teaching experience we have the enthusiasm and expertise to make this happen. Collectively, we have helmed and financed four literary festivals, curated many reading series, and founded two publications. Individually, we boast three full-length poetry collections and three chapbooks through major independent presses.
But we need financial support. Touring is costly (and we are artists, after all), and so we are appealing to you—friends, family, and patrons of the arts—for support. We have applied for numerous grants to broaden our possibilities for funding, but this effort is a lot like our own writing: It all starts with community support.
Every little bit counts! We hope you will consider a donation to our project, and please spread the word to others who you think might be interested. You can visit our website to learn more about each of us and our work or follow our progress (and poet shenanigans) on Facebook and Twitter!
Thank you for taking the time to read and share this message!
One person, one poem, at a time,
Adam Atkinson | Lillian-Yvonne Bertram | Zach Harris
Ben Pelhan | Anne Marie Rooney | S.E. Smith
Risks and challenges
Too much time in a van together, and we might claw one another's eyes out. As a group, we’ve never done anything like this before, but some of us have toured individually. We know what a toll being on the road can take on one's physical and emotional well-being, so eating right and staying sane will be a challenge. The van might break down; someone might leave a camera at a rest stop. We might have to backtrack.
Working with some groups we’ve never met in person will also present a challenge, but we’re confident that, given our combined experiences, we can rise to these challenges in effective and productive ways.
We think that just trying to do this unique thing, one way or another, will be a huge success. And we have the hope that through it, and through help from people like you, we can pioneer something for the future, a different way for poets to interact with and engage communities.
We will—in some way, shape, or form—make this happen. And we really, REALLY want YOU to be a part of it!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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