Kory Oliver on the Atlanta Scene Report
This week Kory Oliver shows us what’s happening in Atlanta. Full disclosure, Atlanta is where I (Scott) live and where Adam and Amy, founders of Real Pants, live and where a lot of other amazing, talented, driven people live, so there’s a lot of pride and bias in this week’s report. Anyone that wants to come to town for a few days can stay with Stephanie Dowda and me. For real.
. . . .
For over half a decade I’ve watched the literary scene in Atlanta grow and flourish. I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved as both an organizer and an enthused audience member in various happenings around town, and I’ve had the opportunity to not only be exposed to diverse bodies of work from local writers and out-of-towners, but also to develop some deep, enduring friendships along the way.
Atlanta is in a constant state of flux. The city proper is host to neighborhoods that have seemingly gentrified overnight, bars and shops that spring into existence with a speed rivaled only by the time it takes them to shutter their doors, and an unending stream of transplants that help to make and remake it year after year. Atlanta’s literary community reflects this state of affairs; reading series and events appear, disappear, and reappear based on what feels more like need or desire than any sort of set scheduling or forethought. You won’t find a vanguard or local elite willing to guide you through the ins and outs of what makes the scene tick, only a place that is as inclusive as it is ephemeral, where major and minor players alike seem to hold equal say on what it means to be a writer and a participant in the literary life of this city. That being said, I’m less inclined to offer a history lesson on the scene. Instead, I’d like to briefly highlight a few of the folks and things making this community what it is currently.
Coconut Books has been holding it down for years (as if you didn’t know) and has featured titles from Gina Myers, Molly Brodak, Angela Veronica Wong, Wendy Xu & Nick Sturm, Steven Karl, Jennifer Tamayo, Tyler Gobble, Alexis Pope and many, many others. Coconut’s Publishers and Editor, Bruce Covey, along with Gina Myers, ran What’s New in Poetry? for twelve years at Emory University. What’s New in Poetry? can now be found on Real Pants every Thursday, featuring videos of internet-melting contemporary poets.
Safety Third Enterprises was run out of Matt DeBenedicits’s kitchen for years and published so many great writers like xTx, J. Bradley, Mel Bosworth and Atlanta hometowners, Johnny Carroll and Laura Relyea before closing the doors in 2014.
421 Atlanta, run by Real Pants co-founder and editor, Amy McDaniel, jumped into the world with the release of Collected Adult Lessons, Daniel Beauregard’s, Before You Were Born and books by William Todd Seabrook and Guy Benjamin Brookshire. As a young press, the future is oh so bright.
Publishing Genius Press, run by Real Pants co-found and publisher Adam Robinson, is one of those presses that no matter what they release you should buy it because if you don’t you’re missing out on something special. Recent releases from Madeline ffitch, Mike Young, Christy Crutchfield, Melissa Broder and Spencer Madsen are proof of that.
Atlanta folks also spread all kinds of literary goodness through the internet with online magazines like Real Pants (the site you’re currently reading, duh!) Sundog Lit, Cartridge Lit, Loose Change, The Fanzine (run by the inimitable Casey McKinney) and Vouched Books. Georgia State University also holds it down with two literary magazines, New South Journal and Five Points.
Started in Chicago, then franchised in Atlanta, Nicholas Tecosky and Myke Johns host the monthly series Write Club, billed as “literature as blood sport” which is probably apt. The series’ format of three separate bouts between two writers cum opponents facing off with diametrically opposed topics breeds an atmosphere that is more akin to something you’d find in a sports arena or pro wrestling event than a reading and attracts participants of all stripes. Here you’ll find comedians, philosophers, performance artists, and high-literature nerds. The diversity of the talent makes for an event that’s eclectic and addictive, which is reflected in the turnout. Write Club regularly has over a hundred attendees filling the seats.
Jamie Iredell and Chris Bundy are the organizers behind SCAD’s Ivy Hall Writers Series. What makes this university reading series unique is the curatorial eye of the Iredell and Bundy, who tend to host writers who populate the fringes of the literary community. Scott McClanahan and Atlanta native Blake Butler, two of the series’ most recent readers, are both known for producing work that is challenging, unsettling and unlike anything else being published currently.
Davy Minor likes to keep extremely busy. His latest project Deer Bear Wolf, a record label/small press/festival and reading series, is a reflection of that. Matt DeBenedictis runs the small press arm. Currently, they have plans to publish Laura Reylea’s All Glitter Everything, a collection of fifty stories, which details Relyea’s thoughts on glitter, life, and most things in between, in early March of this year. Whatever’s next for the project is sure to impress and surprise.
Hanging out in any of the bars that Atlanta writers frequent, like The Local, Manuel’s Tavern, The Righteous Room, The Book House or Steinbecks, among others, you might run into some friends like Jamie Iredell, Jericho Brown, author of Please and The New Testament, Blake Butler, author of 300,000,000, There is No Year and others, or the nineteenth Poet Laureate of the United States, Natasha Trethewey.
Literary life in Atlanta most often reveals itself with experience, not documentation. If anything, I hope that the names, events, and thoughts I’ve shared inspires some of you to participate in a community that seems to be continually innovating and reshaping itself. I can’t promise or make predictions on what will happen next, but I can guarantee, if you do decide to join it, that you’ll be welcomed.