We are all given boxes to put ourselves into. Sometimes these are helpful, though most often not. Interactions with others might be fleeting, we so desperately want to convey a fact that this is us, so we latch onto things that gives some semblance of meaning no matter how far they fall short. Ideology, sport teams affiliations, appreciation of mussels versus peach cobbler, horoscopes, etc. Have many times have you heard “I’m a conservative” or “I’m a conservationist” to convey a sense of personhood in the immediate without too much sleuthing?
Well in Iowa City we kind of switched up the gamble. We said, this is a group of people who not only appreciate literature ah yes sitting in a salon discussing the merits of Voltaire but a body so duly dedicated to the craft that they are willing to invest their lives in its pursuit. And it is this that I emphasize. The passions of students and facilitators alike led to such a dangerous aplomb, we threatened to eat up the Midwest in our visions of eccentric creation. I can imagine earlier this year a certain Mr. Stephen Lovely plucking names from velvety dark tophats, judging their merit based on the tingling of energy each piece of paper produced, and the distance it had to travel to reach his really fun swivel chair because wow what an agglomeration of diversity in one place and such an electricity in the air!
My memories span vistas of fictitious underworlds, explorations of city streets, hearts moving out of bodies due to the surgeon-like qualities of kind words. One day I was making copies of a poem I was working on and somehow got locked out of Courier. Momentarily alarmed, I decided to take the change in circumstance with ease considering this is camp, I should give wandering a chance, and I did. I ended up away from the hunched up proximity of the University of Iowa campus and found myself by the bank of the Iowa River on a vast grassy expanse. The solitude of my journal and the most likely tick infested grass growing bountifully was too much. A few days later I took some of my friends from our militant feminist performance art collective Cantroversial and ran freely, climbing trees, listening to Age of Consent as we neared adulthood and the consequences it entails. Yet this is just one place of solace. There are too many to tell you now, but I want to create a picture of how I feel about this place, this place that I grew strangely attached to unwittingly. There were the unexpected slabs of metal built into the concrete sidewalks of the city, sharing briefly with you history and its poetic measure, there were Adam Fell’s passionate seminars where we discussed the implications of mystery in our works as artists, embarking on voyage to the countryside to give sociological analysis of fried Klondike bars on sticks and the strangely inhumane entertainment of conscripted six year olds on bulls.
Yet if our common connection was literature, we soon far surpassed the initial tie into far off terrains. It is the relationships that will remain even if physical immediacy has other plans. Zoe this is a call out to you girl, we shook up the Amish awakening with our slightly off-kilter spasmodic homage to Kate Bush. Sophie, that moment when we decided to get frozen yogurt together by ourselves discussing the complications of race and pre-BA woes, thank you. Brandt it took major cojones to run through underground hallways at Maddie with a paper ax, kiss a certain penguin in an act of playful selflessness, and open up about your brother while Moneymaker blasted in the background. Adam, you have given me hope about writing generally, the self-deprecation is degenerating into dormancy, and how essential this task is that we find ourselves in.
So I want to swing around to where I started my rambling with. The idea of definitions and pre-circumscribed perceptions. I remember that first day, driving from Cedar Rapids, first meal at Burge (the oreo fluff surprisingly vacant, they didn’t want to startle us too much too early), Lovely orating (onerous would come later), there was a definition defining us: the love of books. Yet delving into IYWS in the weeks to come, I discovered it was much more than that. It was an appreciation for Debussy, a common hatred of humidity, empathy developed over similar familial complications, dedicated plans on how to bridge cultural differences with the Russian exchange students (Gorky Park inspiring such change), an understanding of all of our collective complexity. IYWS was not just an experiment in grammar and workshop. It was a moment of pondering. And it is because of that that we broke free.
Colin Marston graduated from Brophy College Prep in 2013 and attended Session 2 of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. In the fall he’ll begin studying at the New School in New York City.