People were gathering into the small, cozy Union Avenue Books in downtown Knoxville, sipping red wine from little plastic cups, and waiting to hear the literary voices of 11 of UT's fiction writers and poets from the staff of Grist, a national literary magazine.
Michael Shum, graduate student in literature and Grist staff member, gave the introduction for the reading on Friday night, pronouncing the theme to be "Marooned in the City." However, there seemed to be another theme that ran through the readings — one that moved among the young writers and was a thread of resistance to the opposition from those in their world who aimed to push normality onto them.
Damon Murrah's expressive reading of his poem, "Rave On," relayed a narrator who was warned of the unrealistic folly for a person to approach to live their "wildest dreams." Christian Anton Gerard, fourth year graduate student in Renaissance literature and poetry and editor-in-chief of Grist spoke of the same argument in his poem "Defense of Poetry," as it summed up to say that one should get a normal, practical life.
Gerard gave advice to students of literature to read and become involved in on-campus literary publications, such as "The Phoenix," to feed their artistic appetite.
"Grist is just one of the literary magazines out there that is promoting literature and what is on the cutting edge and what is coming up in creative writing," Gerard said.
Marcel Brouwers, director of the Writing Center and professor in English, also read.
"(I) started showcasing graduate students' work with a group called Grail that later merged with the new Grist," Brouwers said.
Shum said there will be a reading each term from those on staff at the magazine.
"Knoxville is a literary city, and that had been proven by the turnout. (There was hardly any) standing room left," Shum said.
Murrah, Gerard and Brouwers also commented on the number of people who came to hear the fresh literary voices of UT