Chant/koming—The Short—Very Short—Life of a College Literary Journal

The first and only edition of Chant/koming, Volume Two

Years ago, as an undergraduate at Bethel College in Mishawaka Indiana, I was named– Ok, I named myself–the editor of the brand new literary journal, Chant/koming. I may possess the only copy of Chant/koming in existence. It says it’s Volume Two, but I don’t remember ever producing Volume One. It would be like me, to suggest that it would be better to imply we were so successful, we were already on our second volume—a foreshadowing of my future career in marketing. Not having a budget, the journal died just as quickly as it was born. It takes money to produce a print journal. There were no other volumes, and as far as I can tell, Bethel doesn’t currently have a literary journal; although, there is no good reason for them not to have one.

When I started this journal, I was on a student’s quest to build a literary community for myself. It was a time of speaking out, and against, things like the war and in general, The Establishment,which represented anything over which we didn’t have a lot of control.

Wood Block Carving by Richard Samuels, Chang/koming, Volume Two

Wood Block Print by Richard Samuels, Chant/koming, Volume Two, 1971-72

In my sheltered world of a quiet, small liberal arts college, I had only the vaguest familiarity with real protest poets like LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), or the Beat Poets. I didn’t really have much exposure to contemporary poets even in high school; although, I was listening to the music of people like Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, and Pete Seeger. I remember how shocked—and enthralled—I was when a classmate told me, she had heard that Allan Ginsberg openly masturbated at parties—a tale, that has no basis in fact that I could find. I was naïve and impressionable and was smuggly reading poets like Pound and Elliott. Mostly, I was acquiring a sense of the allure of words and more importantly, of their power. I wanted to be a part of this and I desperately wanted our school to have a literary journal.

Grace Curtis, the first and only editor of Chant/koming’s single edition

It was between my sophomore and junior year that I attempted to establish Chant/koming. Of course we had no budget so the student editor of the newspaper, The Beacon, used newspaper funds to pay for the typesetting and likely the printing also. I don’t remember how we solicited or selected work, although we probably included everything given to us. We asked art students to make wood block cutting and I naively thought we could individually imprint each book with the art but in the end, we included the cuttings in the print plates and printed them directly onto the pages. I vaguely remember three or four of us around a table in the newspaper office, binding our first edition, Volume Two, with  staplers. We even ran a poetry contest and published the winners in the inaugural issue.

When I pulled Chant/koming off the shelf recently and read the poems, I had to laugh. The poems are generally what you would call, well, sophomoric, to be kind. However, there are glimmers of lovely imagery such as this passage in a poem called Concerto for Violin by Marie Herman,

“. . .chatter of hurrying flutes singing songs

            of dew and mist-filled

trees in deep cello-shaded woods.”

Or this one, which is from, Lynden Tschetter’s poem, Here We Are the Third Place winner in the Chant/koming Literary Contest,

Cries of children

echo thru the thunder of war

                        as

yesterday’s

comic strips

blow

            thru frozen grasses”

An especially entertaining poem was another by Lyndon Tschetter called Corvair, 1959-1967

 “The belt did burn

            The carbs did ice

            And oil blacked the floor

But still the car

            Sold very well till

            Nader struck in sixty-four”

Chant/koming might not represent a pinnacle in American literature. In fact, it was pretty bad but I had a good time while it lasted and, I am a little bit proud of having done it. I realize there is a part of me that enjoys the process of creating the volume, the collection, laying it out, arraying the art beside the words. It’s an interesting creative process in itself.

Recently I came across a literary journal called Greenleaf Review from Guilford College, in Greensboro, North Carolina. From pictures on their website it appears as through many of the staff members might be students. What an amazing experience! There are so many more options for publishing today than there used to be. It makes the creation of a quality school literary journal attainable. Greenleaf Review’s website is created in WordPress. The journal itself looks to be only a couple of years old yet features some very lovely writing. Each volume, in addition to being available in print, is also available as a downloadable PDF file. For the students at Guilford and, in hundreds of other colleges and universities, literary journals of exceptional quality are clearly in reach.  Here is a short list that I obtained from Yahoo of the more well-known journals associated with institutions of higher learning:

A good friend of mine is teaching at a university in Kentucky and has recently received a grant to start a literary journal there. Hey, I’ve got a good title for him:  Chant/Koming. I have no idea what it means and I can’t find a reference to it. The name is the brainchild of a fellow student from years ago whose name I can’t remember. It was a part of my ill-fated attempt to join the chorus of everyone I was reading at the time; and, a nod to the excitement poetry–and publishing poetry–was already bringing to my life at such an early age.

© 2010-2012 Grace Curtis

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2 Responses to Chant/koming—The Short—Very Short—Life of a College Literary Journal

  1. David Baxter says:

    I love this article! I myself am currently in the process of creating a literary journal, and although I am not specifically working to speak out against the Establishment (though some anti-Establishment writing would be much appreciated!) I am trying to create a literary community in this small, southern town that oh-so much needs it.

    Again I loved this piece.

    • Grace Curtis says:

      David,

      Thank you so much for your comments. It is so exciting to hear about your new project. I wish you all the best and I hope you will keep me informed about it.

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