Time to lay it all out for expression

Published 10:05 am Saturday, May 19, 2018

I felt weird — and admittedly nervous — this week as I’ve gone through some of my writings to select a few poems to send to my old friend and co-worker Eric Johnson.

But in my first year not leading the charge for Austin Expression as editor of Austin Living and the Herald, I knew it was high time I put my money where my mouth is and submit.

For those of you who don’t know, I worked at the Herald from 2009 to 2017, serving as editor for latter part of that run, but I left the paper last July when my marriage took me to the Twin Cities, where my wife co-owns a cafe.

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I remember Austin Expression as one of my favorite projects at the Herald, along with many others. Austin Expression is a literary magazine in the annual July-August edition of Austin Living, and I was probably its most vocal supporter. It was conceived to coincide with Austin ArtWorks Festival and to give people connected to Austin and Mower County a chance to share their creative works: poetry, fiction, music, paintings — pretty much anything that can be represented in print.

Writing for Herald and Austin Living, we crossed paths with countless creative people; however, we found a lack of opportunities for displaying and sharing that creativity.

Thus, we made Austin Expression and mainstay in the magazine. Now that Eric is leading the push for Austin Expressions without me, it was clear I needed to submit to support the publication.

So join me and submit to a great cause for people to share their work and, hopefully, spark discussion and thought.

As a vocal proponent of the arts on a national and community level, I wanted to share two recent experiences that reminded me of the power of creativity to get people talking and to bring them together:

The wedding shower

A few weeks before two good friends married recently, my wife and I helped host a wedding shower for the couple.

They didn’t want people to bring gifts. Instead, they asked people to bring a poem, blessing or other writing that “brought them life” to share with the group.

As a former English lit major, I loved the idea. As an introvert, I harbored my doubts. I feared it would be awkward — or more truthfully, I feared it would present a platform for me to be awkward and feel awkward, likely by selecting a bad choice to read.

Despite my introvert-fueled trepidation, it proved to be a great, fun time with friends sharing a variety of writings or quotes that have touched them over the years.

One person read a simple quote from Michael Jordan, while I read a Kurt Vonnegut passage — which will be no surprise to the former readers of my “Listen In” column.

The couple even asked one person to share one of the readings at the wedding. It proved to be a great way to share wisdom and show our personalities at the same time.

The viral video

A friend recently texted me a YouTube video and followed up a short while later with an oddly-urgent “Watch it yet??”

At first, this annoyed me because I’d spent that time catching up on menial chores, but then I watched the video and understood. He’d sent me the music video for Childish Gambino’s (the music name of actor/writer Donald Glover) “This is America,” which sparked an avalanche of discussion and propelled Glover to a new pedestal of being a socially-minded artistic voice.

The video — which is not for the faint of heart — features imagery on gun violence, race in America, social media, the public conscience and more. NPR Music hip-hop journalist Rodney Carmichael described the video best calling much of it a “barrage of symbolism and chaos.” (To understand it better, check out: www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/childish-gambino-s-complicated-catchy-america-music-video-downright-shakespearean-ncna872516)

Some will miss or ignore the symbolism behind violence and Glover’s dancing; however, it gets you talking and thinking—and people who miss/ignore the symbolism play into one of the video’s themes.

I showed the video to my wife, who was at first lost in trying to track everything going on in this “barrage.” The next day, she read an article highlighting the symbolism and texted me that she couldn’t stop thinking about the video and its themes and was discussing it with people at work.

I share this not to promote the social message. I share it because the video accomplishes what good art should: It inspires people to talk and think.

Submit to Austin Expressions

Austin Living is still accepting submissions for our annual Austin Expressions coming in the July-August edition.

Show off your talents by submitting.

How to submit

Submissions should be sent to photodesk@austindailyherald.com with “Austin Expression” in the subject line. Please include a short bio that includes ties to Austin/Mower County and be sure to include name and contact information (phone number and email) with submissions.

We are accepting essentially anything that can be printed or represented in a magazine format. If you’re not sure, submit anyway. Because of the high interest in the past we have extended the deadline to submit to May 25.

•Visual pieces: Each piece must be submitted as print-ready .jpgs.

•Those items accepted include illustrations, photos, paintings, etc.

•We will also accept submissions of images of mixed media, sculptures, clay and other such pieces.

•Graphic novels: 1-2 page previews or snippets

•Please submit largest possible file sizes, even if that means sending photos in multiple emails.

Text: Must be submitted electronically either in the body of the email or .doc.

•Poetry/song lyrics

•Short fiction/nonfiction (up to 1,500 words)

•We would also take selected pieces from a larger book or work as long as they fit the guidelines [up to 1,500 words].