Knox Writers’ House 1st Birthday Sound Off

Posted on January 7, 2013


Knox Writers’ House Contributor’s Pick of the Week 1/7/2013

A year ago Knox Writers’ House went live. In honor of this and how our map-house continues to stand and grow, the original four KWH creators retell stories from its making. Thank you to all who have read and listened. And to Galesburg Illinois, in whose soil this seed took.  

Sicker by Chancellor Xero Skidmore in Baton Rouge, LA 

Chosen by Sam Conrad in New Orleans, LA who says

So I suppose it’s the Knox Writers’ House’s first birthday, which seems unbelievable to me. I’m sure if you ask Emily how old the Knox Writers’ House is the answer would not be “one.” Each of the “CO CONSPIRATORS” of the KWH might even have a different answer for you. 

It had a long gestation, this thing. I’m not sure what “this thing” is or should be called even. What do you call a shared dream that got funded. Not many people’s dreams get funded, so when I call the KWH an “audio archive,” which it is, I feel bad for the people that don’t know the full story. There are some people that might not ever have a chance to say their dream got funded, financially or spiritually, so how does “audio archive” even begin to describe how fortunate we are, or how much love was required during the dream’s construction.

If we are talking strictly “non-work” related (I’m not sure what that means in this context, either) I immediately think of two stories. One involves Emily, Bryce and I going to a friends’ rather formal (by our gross hippy filth and squalor living standards) potluck at some stranger’s house in Minneapolis in the same way the Visigoths go to Rome. The next morning was the worst day of my life.

The other story also occurred in the Twin Cities, this time St. Paul, at our friend Tasha’s house the morning before our first appointment. It must have been around 7 that we had to wake up because I was pissed about it and we were all dead tired. At some point Emily walks into the room in which Bryce and I had been sleeping on the floor and tells everyone that we need to get to get to our first appointment to which I reply “ok.” Emily stands there for a couple seconds and walks back into the other room and lies back down on the couch. Unbeknownst to me or Bryce, Emily thinks i said “so?” and thinks I hate her and the entire project and that nobody wants to be there doing these recordings anymore and is going through this entire scenario in her head for the 30 minutes it takes us all to get up and get in the car and head to our appointment with Francine Marie Tolf

To begin with, I’m kind of an asshole in the morning.  I try not to be explicitly an asshole, but I certainly am not going to talk much and I will not look happy (and often I fail at the explicit part), so Emily’s response to my morning bullshit is not absurd. This trip to the Twin Cities, however, was our first KWH car tour extravaganza and Emily, Bryce and I had not yet gotten used to living with each other 24 hours a day and never not seeing the other two people eye to eye for weeks at a time. Needless to say it wasn’t our best morning and we were all tired and cranky and I was quietly seething that everyone was in a bad mood.

When we get to our appointment with Francine, I realize for the first time that we’re going to this crazy real business building where Francine worked and we were doing our recording in one of the conference rooms so that was also just a whole new thing we hadn’t done before. It was a nuts morning.

But during and after Francine read, I think we all–at least, i know i had–had forgotten how miserable and tired and probably hungover we all felt because sentence after sentence of Francine’s writing just kept getting better and better and she was from Joliet, Illinois and I was from Peoria Illinois so her writing already seemed like my writing’s friend and it was all very emotional for me at the time.

I told you that story to say this: that it was the writers and the words that kept us sane over the course of this project’s development and creation. As tired and as sick and tired as we would get recording sometimes from 9 or 10 in the morning to 9 or 10 at night for up to 3 weeks in a row and living in a car and on peanut butter sandwiches, that it was the freshness of every writers’ personality and words that renewed us each day. For that, for you, Emily Bryce and Monica, and for all you foster children of the Knox Writers’ House, I continue to smile. 

WITH that said and with the spirit of the Knox Writers’ House in mind, this morning I want you to listen to Chancelier Skidmore’s, Xero’s, poem “Sicker.” We recorded Xero in this absurdly beautiful home owned by the absurdly beautiful and talented Ava Leavell-Haymon and her beautiful husband after earlier recording Ava and her own writing. Except, Ava and her husband had had to go to a party and had left us three random children in her home to record her friend and fellow artist Xero. I can’t imagine a more “KWH moment” than three hippy kids given reign over this super nice house and eating their super nice food while listening to art. The immediate trust and love we found between us and all the artists we recorded was something we couldn’t have envisioned.

Xero is a spoken word poet and overall amazing dude, and he truly does personify the KWH. His passion for his community and for his words made us giddy (we had to edit that out to save time, but our giddiness exists in digital form somewhere in this world) so listen to three hippies listen to a dope poet’s life passion jump into the microphone.


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