Laurence Thomas isn’t the world’s best salesman. Really – trying to get this guy to talk about Third Wednesday, the literary journal he edits, was like pulling teeth. You’d think he was a poet or something.
As it turns out, all you need to know about this well-kept secret can be found in its pages.
Thomas – who is a poet, as well as an essayist and a writer of fiction – was born in Ypsilanti 85 years ago. A Hopwood Award winner for essay and poetry at the University of Michigan in the early 1950s, he had a teaching career that took him as far as Uganda, Saudi Arabia and Costa Rica before he returned to his hometown, where he lives today. Third Wednesday was an outgrowth of a monthly poetry group and of his friendship with the late Dearborn Heights attorney and magistrate Michael J. Barney, who was also a published poet and founder of Gravity Presses (lest we all float away) Inc.
Barney, “a regular attendant” of the group, Thomas says, had begun publishing through Gravity Presses a local literary magazine called Now Here Nowhere. Only a handful of issues came out of the project before Barney became ill (he died of cancer in 2006). Third Wednesday picked up where Now Here Nowhere left off, Thomas says, and is in great part an homage to Barney’s memory.
From his home office, Thomas corrals the input of associate editors both local and far-flung (one of them lives in Tajikistan!) who review submissions of poetry, fiction and visual art to produce a quarterly collection. Third Wednesday casts a wider net than did its predecessor and draws submissions – “two or three a day,” Thomas says – from around the country as well as Michigan. The current issue – Winter 2012 – publishes poets from Ann Arbor to Sofia, Bulgaria.
Third Wednesday pays its contributors with a copy of the issue and a token honorarium: $3 to $5. Design editor Paul Kingston “insisted on paying a stipend,” Thomas says, “and he’s proved to be right. (Contributors) feel like professional writers when they receive the money. And some of them tear up the check – that helps us out.”
The journal sponsors an annual poetry contest; poet Philip Dacey judged this year’s entries, which are published in the current issue. The three winners – Chris Lord, Adella Blain and Phillip Sterling – all hail from Ann Arbor. Each issue of Third Wednesday includes a featured poet – sometimes well known (David Chorlton was featured in Fall 2011) but usually, Thomas says, “chosen from our contributors who show skills and ideas we want to promote.”
What do the editors look for? “It’s based on our studies of poetry, keeping up with what’s current,” Thomas says, “and looking for that tingle when we receive work that seems new, vibrant and beautiful.”
“We like publishing well-known names,” he says, “but our greater interest is in finding exciting work by those not yet established or with local reputations but not yet known nationwide.”
Along those lines is work from InsideOut Literary Arts Project, which also appears in every issue. The Wayne State University project places professional writers (many of them with roots in UM’s creative writing program) in Detroit public schools, where they lead workshops for students. Here, from Third Wednesday’s Fall 2011 issue, is a particularly fine example by an anonymous participant in a workshop for teen writers held at the Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park:
What it’s like to be a black gay man
(for those of you who aren’t)
It’s holding your tongue when you want to sing
It’s straightening your wrist
deepening your voice
It’s asking a man a question
xxxxxxwhile asking a different question
It’s a signal it’s a stop light
It’s a hustle, one drink too many
a puff of smoke
It is opening your mouth
xxxxxxand a purse falling out
It’s a street corner
xxxxxxIt’s a fix. It’s a prayer
to be held to be driven
xxxxxxto be rode
It’s finally an open door
xxxxxxWelcoming you in
xxxxxxWelcoming you out
You can get more information about Third Wednesday online, including submission guidelines. You won’t find the journal’s current work on the site, however. The most recent issue can be found in good, old-fashioned paper and ink: subscriptions are $30 a year and copies are sold at Nicola’s Books in the Westgate shopping center and WSG Gallery on Main Street (full disclosure: my husband is a member of the gallery).
Rebecca Van Der Jagt had been on the job at the Borders bookstore in Ramsey, N.J., for one month when the word came down from corporate in July 2011: Liquidation. In “Sold Everywhere But Borders,” Van Der Jagt has written an employee’s account of the grim last days of a beloved bookstore. She’ll be in town to sign copies at Biggby’s Coffee on Liberty Street at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 21; an emotional gathering of the Borders diaspora is a pretty sure bet.
Author Christopher Paul Curtis will be at Nicola’s Books at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 26. His latest book for children, “The Mighty Miss Malone,” is based on a character his readers met in “Bud, Not Buddy,” Curtis’ widely acclaimed 2004 novel set in Depression-era Michigan. “Bud, Not Buddy” won the Coretta Scott King Award and a second Newbery Medal for Curtis; the first was for his 2000 debut novel, “The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963.”
The 35th annual Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair is Sunday, May 20, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Michigan Union ballroom. A visit is well worth the $5 admission, which benefits UM’s William L. Clements Library.
Honors for Kasischke, Hoffman
Two works featured in this column have gone on to wider recognition in recent (and not so recent) months. In March, Laura Kasischke’s “Space, in Chains” was awarded the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. Kasischke, a novelist and poet who lives in Chelsea, is a professor at UM’s MFA program in creative writing.
And back in November, Andrew J. Hoffman and his memoir “Builder’s Apprentice,” published by Huron River Press, were honored with a Connecticut Book Award. Hoffman is the Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at UM’s Ross School of Business and the School of Natural Resources and Environment.
About the writer: Domenica Trevor lives in Ann Arbor and can generally be found reading on third Wednesdays. Her columns are published periodically in The Ann Arbor Chronicle. The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our columnists and other contributors. If you’re already supporting The Chronicle, please encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to do the same. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.