Teenage Writers, Reading Aloud


They have a reputation to uphold. Thirty years of publication, on-time and never missed. Multiple recognitions of national excellence by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. Front cover to back, a publication to take pride in.

“They” are the editors and writers, the artists and production designers of Connotations, the award-winning literary magazine of Fayetteville High School, and “they” will be the guests of the Ozarks Poets and Writers Collective at its April meeting, on the 30th at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street. The public is invited to hear the teenage writers read, and to see the finished product.

Lit Mag, they call the course that produces Connotations. (First student: “We’re teenagers; we abbreve everything.” Second student: “Abbreve??” First student: “Y nt?”) And, under the guidance of their teacher Becky Cox, and led by principal editors Levi Huang, Marlee Stark and Bella Blakeman, they put together the magazine from start to end: They solicit the prose, poetry and art, critique it and suggest improvements, they make the final selections, they solicit funds for production, they design the layout, they oversee every detail. A to Z.

Influenced by the work of the post-modern philosopher Jacques Derrida, the editors chose the theme for this year’s Connotations to be “Deconstruction,” subdivided into units called “Structure,” “Rupture” and “Différance.” The lead poem in the first unit is “Haughty” by Marlee Stark, which begins, “She fished one last lump/of hope from her coin purse/and handed it over/to a man with paper bag skin/and a lazy eye.” Angela Wang begins her prose piece “Contrast” like this: “Wobbly lines of black ink on the miniature whiteboard buried her incorrect conjugation of viajar and the sloppy border of vines and leaves in ashamed annoyance.”

In the second unit, Annie Molesso’s “upon my departure” contemplates mortality: “bury me in your garden/plant seeds above my body/so that life may come of death.” And Natasha Raezer’s narrator studies an old photograph in “My mother and her boyfriend at a family dinner, 1986”: “i can feel your old rebellion itch against my skin when i see it (the wool of it is, i’m “rebelling” too).” And, in the third unit, Joey Largent writes in “The Assimilation of Mikrokosmos,” “A fond becoming moment soon became a moist/reaction of tinkering tingling twingles./A creation!”

The artworks in Connotations, too, are impressive, but TFW can’t do them justice. Copies will be on view, and for sale, at Nightbird.

One student contributor described the Lit Mag process as “really cool.” Another said it was a chance to flex some “creative muscle.”

The contest to gain admission to the class is eager, the competition to have one’s work included is keen, the round-table critiquing of the work is sharp, and the final product is impressive indeed.

Impressive enough, indeed, to win the coveted gold crown this year from Columbia Scholastic Press.

Please join the Ozarks Poets and Writers Collective on Tuesday next, 7 p.m. at Nightbird Books for the unveiling of, and reading from, Connotations XXX, that is to say the 30th edition of the magazine. (If there is some possible misunderstanding in the “XXX,” M. Derrida would approve.)

Before and after the students read there will be an open microphone for readers to share their work with a generally friendly and encouraging audience. New readers and new listeners are particularly sought. And, if I may, I will follow the teenagers’ lead and abbreve the usual advisory: OPWC censr? NOT. Lang ruf? Myb. Topx oftn adlt. C u there.

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