For the past fifteen years, Dr. Samuel G. Collins has been an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Towson University, as well as the current director of the Cultural Studies program. Though his own research and professional interests lie in the field of Anthropology, as an undergraduate student at Rice University, Dr. Collins majored in both Anthropology and Comparative Literature. The co-founder of Anthropology by the Wire, a multi-media research project for undergraduate students in Baltimore, Dr. Collins is also conducting research on information technologies, globalization, communication systems in the US, and culture in Korea. He is the ethnographer of All Tomorrow’s Cultures: Anthropological Engagements with the Future and Library Walls: The Library of Congress and the Contradictions of Information Society. Professor Collins is already in “hardcore production mode” along with a colleague to co-publish their upcoming book, Networked Anthropology.
1. Can you elaborate a bit on what your current research entails?
Well a couple things! At the moment, I’m doing stuff in Korea and the US. So, Korea: I’m really interested in the role of information and communication technologies in people’s lives and souls. That area is super, super connected. Long before people were texting and doing stuff on their iPhone, people in Korea were already completely glued to their technology…
For the US, I’ve been working on different stuff. I’ve done a lot of work on information technologies. In the last few years, I’ve been doing this big project in Baltimore, which is really the way people represent the city to themselves, or [to] their community or [to] each other, and then intervening in that process by helping them. You know, let’s do a video together—what do you want it to be? And we’ll put it up on YouTube. So we’ve been doing that and it’s been really interesting to kind of build up—to kind of re-define ethnography as a collaborative production, rather than having to find out what you do and then write about it, instead it’s like well what can we do together. So we’ve made little videos of people in South Baltimore, and we’re doing this special project with these high school students to clean up the neighborhood.
2. So is that the underlying concept of Networked Anthropology?
Yeah, exactly, it’s about helping people building those connections; in this case, to connect that neighborhood to some branches that they were interested in working with.
3. Speaking of connections, how do you feel like Literature and Anthropology connect on multiple platforms?
Time has [elapsed] since I was an undergraduate, and I feel that in the intervening years, that literature has become more anthropological, or rather, that English programs have become more anthropological. Because of course, we always knew these subjects were relevant to people’s lives, but the curriculum seems to be more about connecting writing and literature back to everyday life and helping communities, and a critique of urban inequality, but you know, making those connections. And that is pretty much the other side of what we’re doing as anthropologists. In many ways, we’ve never been as close. It’s something that I probably experienced as more disconnected as an undergraduate; maybe not so much anymore at all.
4. Did you tie those connections together yourself when you were in college?
Yeah, absolutely, and I did it with theory (laughs) because at that point, the tie between the two areas was post-structuralist theory, and I got really into that and was all about that,. You guys are all lucky that we’ve kind of moved on in the academic world from those days. But Post-structuralism is a theory of representation and of language and was a questioning of epistemology, so those things can be utilized in any discipline, but they were really picked up in Anthropology.
5. Do you write frequently? What do you enjoy writing, as far as things that are separate from your research?
I write all the time, and I have to write all the time, but I don’t really find it pleasurable, more like I’m compelled to write. I blog a lot, but you know nobody is making you do that, if you didn’t do that nothing bad would happen to you. There is no particular currency in academics, but I just sort of blog stuff because I have ideas and I want to get them down.
I’m one of the only people on the planet who is doing Anthropological Science Fiction Studies. I’ve published quite a bit on that, and I’ll still read science fiction. Right now, I’m working my way through this extremely rare Singaporean science fiction. Apparently, according to WorldCat, there are only three copies in the United States of that book, and I have one of them.
6. Was your analysis on anthropological science fiction your most recent publication?
No actually, I wrote on that a lot in my book, it was kind of about that [All Tomorrow’s Cultures], but my most recent publications have been articles from our Anthropology by the Wire project.
7. How do you feel that Towson is helping to foster more interdisciplinary approaches to learning?
I’m directing cultural studies. And that’s something that we’ve always been very clear on, is that yeah, we have requirements, but it’s mostly about people taking classes in different areas. I think that’s a bit strange, but why not do that? You can find some pretty cool things, and they all connect at some point, which is interesting, all of these people in different disciplines. At some level, there will be a moment in any class that you’re taking where you’re like, ‘I’ve already had that, and I’ve had that in the art class I took three years ago, or some other unexpected place.”
You wedged a wooden plank between the door knob and the marble step of the vestibule to keep out The Crazy. This was after the police left, before your neighbor knocked and scared us again. I cringed as it was removed, leaning it against the exposed brick wall to let her in, from barricade to innocent board on a wall because maybe The Crazy would come back. We feigned welcome to Tammy with kindness, but our wide eyes were traumatized, talking about what happened—neighbors always have to know.
She was in my face. The door had pounded hard, actually soft and sweet at first but then increasingly louder and I knew it was The Crazy. And then she was in my face. But first you were on top of me, we were upstairs when she knocked because we were having our moment of togetherness like with our tongues and noses touching and legs tangled all wonderful. Then she was in my face. Actually, we came downstairs because you did not think it was The Crazy; you opened the door and she exploded. In your face with a poisonous finger pointed at you and then she was searching for me. The ravenous wolf. I was still numb from your hands on my back and your air in my nose but there she was, she was
in my face, hissing, and dark, and god-awful, and ugly. And you said that her breath smelled and she mocked you and I rolled my eyes because you two are children.
What matters about this: that you covered the window with furry brown blankets, those same blankets that you used to keep you warm all those years you slept on the couch. Blankets to block the light from outside, now just a glow from the lonely street light and shadows from your oak tree out front, but before—the silent lights of police, red and blue spinning orbs inside each drawn window on the block—they had flashed on your face, on The Crazy, off the caps of the officers, but not me because I was hiding in the kitchen. Blankets to separate and to blind the spies on us. Eyes from outside, eyes of The Crazy, eyes of the well-meaning, the nosy, the passersby. No eyes on us anymore. We would retreat
as far into ourselves as possible—for safety—to wait for time to numb what she had said and done.
I stare at the covered windows as we sip sweating bottles of beer; I suggest the plausibility of moving.
--written by Shelley Harp
As I lay next to him that night, I was almost positive that his roommate could hear my pulse on the other side of the wall, probably dismissing it as my head knocking against the headboard, when I was having trouble just working up the nerve to kiss him—something I’d done countless times before, but never without the standard mantra:
I have no feelings for him.
I have no feelings for him.
I have no feelings for him…
“Tell me something you don’t tell other people,” I said.
“What do you want to know?” he asked.
“A secret.” Truth be told, I didn’t just want to know his secrets. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to know how he feels about himself before he gets in the shower, compared to how he used to feel when he was sixteen. I wanted to know his favorite thing about his room growing up. I wanted to know how often people asked him about himself, and how often he told a lie. I wanted to know what he wanted to be when he was seven. I wanted to know what his favorite memory was, what his least favorite memory was, what he wished he could remember. I wanted the stats of every single person he has ever dared to love, and why he doesn’t love them anymore. The first time he’d had his heart broken, he first time he’d broken one himself. But, I thought asking for a secret was a little less creepy.
“I don’t have any,” he told me. I let it go—something I rarely did, but drawing lines on his back with the tips of my fingers seemed more appealing.
“What are you doing, taking my pulse?” he asked. My free hand had lost its way while trying to find a place to rest comfortably, instead finding the soft thud-thud-thud of his chest. He told me once that a heart doesn’t beat. Instead, it’s more of a squeezing motion. There’s a metaphor there somewhere, I think.
“Yeah. Just making sure you’re still alive.”
“Oh…” he said. “I wish I could cut my heart out and put it in a jar or something.”
“Why?” I braced myself for the part where he’d finally draw me a map of exactly where he hurts.
Instead, he said, “Because, I wouldn’t have to worry about what would happen if I got shot or something,” and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder.
As I lay next to him that night, I wondered why every night couldn’t be a Saturday—easily excused and tucked away in the folds of tangled blankets. I’d wake up too early every morning to the annoying “prepare yourself to get up in five minutes” alarm he’d set the night before, at least one of his limbs draped casually over one of mine. I’d go to sleep two hours too late every night, since it’s a scientific fact that it takes at least half an hour for me to work up the nerve to kiss him. (The rest of the time was to be spent making up for that first half hour.) We’d eat and nap on and off like lazy lions, breaking the cycle only when life got in the way. I’d even write lame flash fictions based more than slightly off of our bed peace while waiting for him to get off from work…
I have no feelings for him.
I have no feelings for him.
I have no feelings for him…
--written by Briana Wingate
David Bergman teaches in the English department at Towson University. He is the author and editor of over a dozen books, and his poetry is recognized nationally. Among other journals, he has been published in The Paris Review multiple times, and is the winner of the Lambda Book Award and the George Elliston Prize. His fourth collection of poetry, titled Fortunate Light, was released in March of this year. Bergman graduated from Kenyon College, and received his Ph.D from Johns Hopkins University.
1. Can you talk a little about your writing process?
It has changed, and of course changes with every poem. I keep a notebook, which is just for working on poems, so I’ll get an idea or a couple of lines and work on it. The first draft is always hand written. As it moves closer to being finished, I start putting it on the computer because I can manipulate it easier.
2. You are the poetry editor of The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide. Can you tell us more about your experience working with this magazine?
The magazine uses poetry to fill up space. I don't have a very grand notion of my own practice. People keep sending lots of poetry there, so from time to time, I get a big stack of things which I go through and pick out the things I like. I’m glad to say I’ve picked out some people who have gone on to do some really good things.
3. Your chapbook, Fortunate Light was recently published, and contains just sixteen poems. How was the writing process for this collection different than some of your longer works of poetry?
It’s by far the easiest book I’ve done. I’ve known the editor of Midsummer’s Night Press since he graduated college. We were corresponding about something else, and all of a sudden he said, we should publish a book of your poems. I didn't do anything because I didn't believe him. Then he mentioned it again, so I went through and picked out some of my work and put it into this collection.
4. The poems in this collection are highly narrative. What is it about this type of poetry that you like the most?
I love to tell stories. I think we understand the world through stories we tell.
5. Your list of published works is admirable. Do you have any words of wisdom for young writers aspiring to have their work published for the first time?
I remember how difficult a feeling it was - the desire to be verified as a writer and having somebody tell you that you are good enough to be published. In my case, I [wasn’t published] until after I graduated college. The poems I sent to The Hopkins Review were rejected there, but the same poems were accepted by The Paris Review. You need to find editors who will appreciate your work and stay with them. The sense of being a writer has to come from yourself; no one can give that to you.
He watched her blow out the candles.
“Very nice. Now, would you like a small piece or a big piece?” he said.
“I don’t want any. I just want to go home!” she said, sobbing.
He was getting tired of her whining and crying.
“Just shut up and eat your damned CAKE!” he said, huffing and puffing, his nostrils flaring. He closed his eyes and sucked in a deep breath, trying to calm himself. He was trying very hard not to scare her. If the little bitch would just stop crying!
“Sorry...I didn’t mean to lose my temper. I would just like for you to stop crying, please,” he said.
He attempted to appear nice and composed. His eyes crinkled at the corners, but his face still looked waxy and stiff from the outburst. He just wanted to get this surprise part out of the way.
She whimpered and her eyes welled, but she tried to calm down. Her eyes searched desperately for a way to escape, but there was none. Out past the window of the car were only woods, and not a single light. She didn’t even know where they were, but she only had on her night gown and panties, no socks, no shoes. She knew she wouldn’t get very far if she did get away. Her mommy and daddy probably didn’t even know she was gone yet. Besides, where was she going to go without socks or shoes and in the dark? She didn’t even know where she was going. What she did know was that the man was very big and that he smelled bad. Up till now, he hadn’t yelled at her but she was so scared and cold.
The man leaned over and ran his fingers through her curly blonde hair at the temple. She flinched, but the man didn’t say anything.
--written by Sandra Rhei
Everyone has a few skeletons in the back of their closet. Mine are not quite so old. They are more like fresh corpses; just like Norma Bates, when they are uncovered the look of horror on the discoverer’s face is always the same.
I sigh and explain, “Yes, I wore that…No, I’m not proud”.
My own personal fashion graveyard: dark, depressing, and just a bit smelly. In that small closet in my mother’s house hang the remnants of my teenage self. Plaid pants in every eye-aching neon color imaginable, and combat boots that had more business storming the beach at Normandy than completing whatever heinous ensemble my brain concocted.
At the very back of the closet is an article that, at first glance, could be mistaken for a primitive suit of armor. Upon closer inspection, it’s nothing more than an old jean vest. Patches of various bands are sewn erratically on every available surface. On the breast pocket, a crudely drawn stick figure throws a swastika into a trash can. The words “Throw that hate away!” is written on top. A friend’s handy work.
The front alone would have any fashion Nazi cringing in their chinos. The back, however, really tied the whole thing together. Or so my 14 year-old self seemed to think. Rows of studded spikes cover the top half, while beneath those spikes sits, to quote myself at the time: “The patch of all patches.” It takes up the remaining room on the back, with a picture of a red skull sporting a huge spiked mohawk. The skull’s mouth stands open in a silent, defiant scream. The word “Exploited” sits in huge, dark letters, at the bottom.
These old clothes, unused now, serve as relics of a past time. “Phase” would be too trivial a word to use. They served me well. In good times. In bad. In style. And out. I don’t begrudge them in the slightest. For all my fashion indiscretions, I have no regrets.
Except for the polka dot shorts…Those were a mistake.
--written by Nicholas Stone
In Grub Street’s very first SPOTLIGHT, we are pleased to feature recently published work of Towson University favorite, Ben Warner. Professor Warner received his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin and his MFA from Cornell University, where his fondest memories include victories with “The Brett Favres,” the MFA basketball team.
He writes for the same reasons he takes a walk on a nice day--“It feels really good, and if I don’t do it, I feel like I’m wasting something." Professor Warner currently teaches Writing Fiction and Advanced Writing Fiction at Towson University.--Leah Demirjian1. You are the editor of a poetry journal for the homeless community of Maryland. Please tell us more.
I'm the editor of Voices and Visions
, which is a poetry magazine that comes out of the class I teach called "Writing Your Story." It's an expressive writing course held at Community Visions, a resource center for the homeless in Silver Spring. The students are homeless, and they're disenfranchised in many ways, but one of the most startling [things] is the way they have been cut off from self-expression. For those students, putting a pen to paper and simply free-writing can be an act of joy and revelation. 2. How did Voices & Visions come about? What’s production like?
The magazine itself I make in my basement with a saddle stapler and a bone folder. My wife helps me. It's cheap and easy, but comes out looking pretty nice, I think. I was taught the technique by Christophe Casamassima, who is a Towson poet and advocate of all things literary. The idea was to take these little life-sketches and poems that students were jotting down in class, and formalize them between two covers. We've just started selling them at a local cafe and [a] used bookstore--and we have our first poetry reading on the horizon. 3. How else do you contribute to Community Visions?
Besides teaching there, I work the window giving out toothpaste and combs and ziplock bags and so forth. It's nice; when one of my students comes to the window, we can exchange a [little] wink in knowing that we've shared an hour-long space in the day, reserved for quiet and creativity. For many of my students, that quiet is incredibly valuable. It's a quiet room, but also a quiet head-space. Being homeless, even in a rich county like Montgomery, is an awfully turbulent experience, and to inhabit the calm of a writing exercise has been described to me as "a break from the world."4. What is it like when you encounter breakthrough moments with those students who initially struggle with self-expression?
I get the impression that the writers feel a real sense of pride. Even if it's fleeting, it's important when many are depressed [about] living on the streets. We've put out five editions so far, and each time I hand them out, I'm greeted with the list of people who will be on the receiving end: "... my mother, my daughter, my pastor," etc. 5. If you had to define the experience with a word...I'd say, from both sides of the desk, it's "enlightening."
Mourning by Ben Warner
Mom says a real friend is someone who doesn’t knock you down, but I say it’s anything that doesn’t. Don’t look to a source for any of this. I understand about the world of inanimate objects. A sock monkey is a friend of mine. I understand the term age appropriate. Mom tells me that it’s understanding the limits of my mind that keeps me in the basement. I tell her to turn off the light already, and I reattach the thumbtack to the corner of the sheet that keeps the light from coming through the ground-level window. I push the thumbtack back into the wood. At night I take it out. In the darkness, I like to look out at the grass. I like to see the leaves that pile against the side of the house and rot. But in the day I want it gray. My sock monkey lives in shadow. He’s a little shadow monkey who I love. I’ll describe his mouth. It’s a straight tender line. His mouth is like my mouth when Mom is downstairs telling me about the limits of my brain. This is what it means to show friendship: it’s a hard line. This is what it means to love and hate: a body, or anything that skitters away. It’s my gray world in daytime, like Mom says, my almost-coffin.
The lights were dim in and around Gate C, Section 12 of Griffiss International Airport, dim enough to make you want to sleep. The chairs, however, did pose a problem—hard, plastic, stubbornly unyielding, and a rather unsavory shade of green. A woman in her twenties tried her best to get comfortable anyhow. The man next to her placed his hand on her convex stomach.
“Babe, you’re fidgeting,” he said.
“Sorry. Just restless,” she replied. She sat up with a sigh.
“You want me to get you something?”
“Attention, passengers of Delta flight 217 to Washington D.C. Due to inclement weather, there will be a departure delay ranging from one to two hours—“ the attendant’s voice continued over the cacophony of groaning “—until ground crews can deice the plane. In the meantime, please enjoy some complimentary appetizer plates at Raggio’s Grille, located in Section 10. We thank you for your patience.”
“Lovely,” she huffed. She got up and stretched, her belly playing peek-a-boo from under her shirt. “I don’t know if I can handle this for another two hours.”
“You and me both. At this rate we could’ve just drove.” He watched her as she ran her hands through her dark, kinky hair. She was beautiful, even if she didn’t feel as much at six months pregnant.
“I’m going to the bathroom,” she murmured. He nodded at her as she walked-wobbled away. She wasn’t quite here. Understandably so—they had returned to her small hometown of Eccentric Milk, NY to bury her mother. She was a rare woman, with greenish-gray eyes that shined out of her brown skin. They had a way of seeing through you—there was no point in lying to Mama, she already knew. This would be their first child. Perhaps she would have her grandmother’s eyes.
--written by Lauren Jackson
Poetry and fiction winners of the 2012 High School Writing Contest will be announced sometime in late February. They will be contacted via phone or e-mail by one of Grub Street's editors and their names will then be posted on the website.
Submissions for Grub Street will still be accepted until January 31st. That is a little over a week away, so get those submissions in now!
After the submission deadline passes, Grub Street's editors will be hard at work voting, proofreading and compiling a list of entries they believe should make up the 2012 magazine. After they come to an agreement, those who have been selected will be contacted via phone or e-mail to be notified and discuss revisions (if needed).
If you have any questions feel free to email the editors at email@example.com.
Thank you and keep those submissions rolling until next Tuesday!
The beginning of another academic semester at Towson University is upon us once again and the staff of Grub Street urges you to spread the word that we are currently seeking submissions for our 2012 magazine. Keep in mind, this edition will be our 60th year anniversary, marking a very significant milestone in the life of Grub Street.