By Robert Beeland and
Frances Marion Givhan
Sewanee promotes itself as a haven for writers, and this year, different parts of the writing community hope to augment the presence of creative minds on Sewanee’s campus. the Sewanee Review and the Mountain Goat both have new editors this year—Adam Ross and Eliana Perozo (C’18), respectively—and they plan to implement new changes for the benefit of Sewanee writers.
“I think there are several writing communities on Sewanee’s campus, largely due to the variety of writing and writers: professional, fiction, poetry, drama, faculty and non-faculty, and academic (like yours truly),” says Professor Matthew Irvin, co-faculty advisor for The Mountain Goat. This diversity of style and genres means that groups like the Sewanee Review, the Mountain Goat, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference tend to specialize in their own areas, sometimes leaving little room for communication between them. “Our strength is the diversity of our community of writers,” says Irvin, “but one of our weaknesses is that we don’t always reach across departments and other divides.”
However, these groups all share what Ross describes as “a dedication to good writing.” Just within his first few months as the newest Editor of the Review, Ross seems to have a pretty good understanding of what he calls “Sewanee power.” Succeeding former Editor George Core, who served as the Editor for over forty years, Ross has the opportunity to expand Core’s legacy while still forging his own path. As the release date for the Spring 2017 issue of the Review—which will be the first to implement a variety of design changes under Ross’ tenure—approaches, Ross sees the writing culture at Sewanee in closer and closer proximity. “Studying English is still kind of a Sewanee religion,” said Ross in an interview with The Purple.
The study of literature certainly holds an important and formative place in Sewanee’s history. From authors like Allen Tate—another former editor of the Review—to Tennessee Williams, the literary tradition has followed Sewanee through the ages. Ultimately, what makes the mountain a great place to write is a strong desire within the university community to write well and support writers.
“Sewanee is a very small and personal place; to see so many people come together to support our writers showed me the perks of our community’s intimacy,” says Perozo (C’18). She hopes that the Mountain Goat will host more events that will increase the accessibility to literature. She also wants to create “stronger ties with the literary community and raise student awareness as to the nature of the Mountain Goat and how it should function.” The magazine hopes to produce their next issue before May 3, 2017 in order for students to see the finished product, a change from the usual publication date during the summer.
“Events like the launch party are a wonderful reminder of how vibrant the creative culture is at Sewanee,” says Professor Kevin Wilson, the other faculty advisor for the magazine. He has faith in the students on campus that show dedication to their craft.
At the Review, changes aim to bring the publication into the life of the university. As Ross explains, “This may sound critical, but I think it’s really more of a fact—it was communicated to me that the Review was kind of an island unto itself within the university.” However, an evolving design platform and roster of writers ushers the Review into a new era. “This is the first time the Review has been 50% or more women writers. That has never happened in the Review’s history.”
The key to bridging the divisions between the writing communities on campus is student and faculty communication and engagement. For example, one student recently admitted that they did not know what the Sewanee Review is, even though it remains integral to Sewanee’s identity. “We have to get the word out,” says Ross. “We’ve put together this really great party, and now we need people to show up.” The benefits of facilitating connections between areas of the writing community means discovering the potential in writers. If the groups work together, then writers have more outlets through which they can release their creativity.
Robert Walker (C’16), the Managing Editor and Poetry Editor at the Sewanee Review, says, “The idea is to tap into the potential of Sewanee. By bridging the gap, we’ve found some incredible talent.” Perozo also believes in this. During her time as Editor of the Mountain Goat, she hopes to “break the stigma that literature and art can only be created and appreciated by one specific type of person.” This issue of who is a writer permeates all areas of Sewanee life because one cannot pin down the qualities of a writer. The label extends across genres and Sewanee’s curriculum, and anyone has the potential to build and improve their skills.
Along a similar vein, Ross turned the question of what makes Sewanee good for writers on its head. “People come here to be good,” he says. That is what can happen when the different facets of the writing community come together. Everyone who wishes to explore the art of writing in its various genres will become good.