Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

    MFA alumni host reading of their work at Loosa Brews on Sept. 18


    The outcasts, the freaks, the geeks, the curious, the people starved for attention—that’s who Eric Parker, an English department instructor who co-produces a reading series called Pure Products, hopes to attract this Friday.

    The first reading of the year will take place at 8 p.m, on Sept. 18 at Loosa Brews. The event features a panel of The University of Alabama MFA alumni including host Jessica Richardson, Tessa Fontaine, Ashley Gorham, Danilo Thomas and Kevin Weidner. 

    “The idea behind the Pure Products reading series, is to provide a space for people like us to share our work, build a tighter community within the department, UA campus and Tuscaloosa,” Parker said. 

    Beyond that mission, he said the series allows authors to commiserate about writing and teaching and choosing the road less traveled.

    Ashley Gorham, a featured reader this weekend, is no stranger to this road. She grew up in a household where her family threw around puns, and she started writing angsty poetry in high school. It was not until she was an undergraduate student at The University of Montana that she begun taking poetry classes and ultimately decided to add an English major. 

    She attended graduate school at the University, went on to teach in the art department at Florida State University and became press manager of the Small Craft Advisory Press in Tallahassee, Florida. She is currently completing a book, revising a collection of poems and working on a poem that will become an artists’ book. 

    “[Poetry] is more fluid than people give it credit for,” Gorham said. “I’m not trying to pin down the language. And finding other writers in that ream gave me the confidence to keep going.” 

    That network of writers includes Tessa Fontaine, a PhD student at the University of Utah and managing editor of the Western Humanities Review. After graduating from the University MFA program, she ran off to join the circus and joined one of the only surviving traveling sideshows in America. That journey was the source of her inspiration for the work she will be reading at Pure Projects. In addition, she credits her family for founding her interest in writing and giving her material for later on in life. 

    “My primary memory of being with my dad is having like a thousand uncles, and they sat around telling crazy stories about growing up,” Fontaine said. “And I was very shy growing up so I would never participate in the storytelling, but I could write them.” 

    Danilo Thomas, PhD student at Florida State University and Senior College Life Coach, also cites his childhood as an influence on his work. 

    “I grew up in what I find an interesting place, and I don’t think I realized it until after the fact,” Thomas said. “It’s an old mining community, and it has a lot of history. My family is Irish, so my roots have a lot of storytelling in their blood.” 

    Beyond family, both Thomas and Fontaine agreed with Gorham on the significance of a network of writers. 

    “I think having a community of people whose work you really respect and who you also love as people is probably the most important thing,” Fontaine said.

    Pure Products is an opportunity for people to join that community, but Parker said there are challenges to assimilating a large crowd.

    “We’re competing against cover bands, movies and sporting events on a Friday night,” Parker said. 

    He challenged the readers to be ready to entertain a crowd. 

    “Nobody comes to a poetry reading without knowing what they’re getting into,” Gorham said.

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