Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks, our Plorkology student publishers are going to share some of their thoughts on the process of creating this anthology and why publishing (particularly handbound) matters. First up is Mychael Zulauf, a third-year student in the UB MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts.
As one of the student publishers, I feel like I’m in the unique position of being able to comment on the entirety of this project, and that position feels a lot like sitting on the edge of a very tall cliff face: the view’s incredible, and if you lean over slightly, you get that mix of exhilaration and terror eking outward from the center of your chest.
Though, in this case, it’s not so much terror as it is the continual realization of how enormous an undertaking this anthology has turned out to be.
Some days I feel like we’ve taken on an impossibility of labor (and I’m only on the periphery of the workload; I can’t imagine what Meredith has been going through), but after those frenetic moments pass and I can recollect with clarity, I realize that the process has actually been relatively smooth . . . or at least without too many speed lumps.
I feel like that warm-bath-style ease is in large part due to Meredith’s meticulous planning; even in the anthologies earliest stages, I could see Meredith thinking far ahead into the project’s timeline. And yes, we’ve had to realign the schedule a bit, but what plan doesn’t encounter some malleability when actually implemented?
I would like to think that the MFA students have a slightly greater capacity for flexibility, and general redirection when things go awry, thanks to our Creativity class, which is really just one tangible incarnation of the MFA program’s driving mantra of plork. We are fluid writers, river writers: free enough to flow, and dedicated to that flowing.
Which brings me to a very important lesson I’ve learned working on Plorkology: dedication is essential to seeing something through to its fruition. I feel like some would have used perseverance there, but I think the flavor of that word is wrong for at least what I feel toward this project. Perseverance, to me, is standing in front of a torrent, an onslaught, the resetting of a bone, teeth gritted and the constitution to make it until morning because you must. Dedication is waking up early every morning before sunrise, walking 3 miles in the snow to the top of a lookout, and writing three or four pages in your notebook because that is the only time and the only place that your words flow freely. You trudge through the sleep and the cold because you love your writing, and you are tethered to it by a passion that, were it to fizzle out, would kill you too.
Dedication, in my mind, is the byproduct and result of love and passion. I mean, why else agree to do a project like Plorkology: we love book arts, and that “we” extends not just to the rest of my fellow student publishers, but to Kendra and Meredith and all of the wonderful volunteer sewers who have almost literally come out of the woodwork to help out with and support this project. No. Endeavor has a much nicer ring to it.
Which brings me to another lesson I’ve learned through this experience (and it has been an experience): when you get a group of dedicated, passionate people together with a common drive or goal, things happen. Or, to put it more vernacularly, shit gets done. Done thoroughly and with a sense of camaraderie and casualness that is often outwardly perceived as effortlessness. Like most of the best art I’ve seen. Like a Rothko panting, or a poem by Li-Young Lee.
And, I’m thrilled (giddy, even) to be a part of this experience. It’s a first for our program, and I sincerely hope it won’t be a last. What better way to show off not only the artistry and technical skill of our students but also our dedication to and passion for book arts. I know many MFAers applied to UB’s Creative Writing program because of the strong publishing arts element, and I am thrilled, THRILLED, that we now have another avenue those students can throw some plork around in.
I feel like the project also acts as a kind of signal flare: it shows others that hey, you can do something like this; this is a path you can take. You can make a completely handmade anthology and have people excited and interested about it.
It feels a little like trailblazing. Or maybe what it feels like to be an inspiration.