By Nick BeJeaux
Baton Rouge’s newest literature and art journal, Crushed Canvas, is close to producing its first issue.
Crushed Canvas is entirely produced and edited by young poets of the Forward Arts program under the watchful eye of Donney Rose, Program Director at FA. He expects the journal to be entering the layout phase very soon and, once completed, it will feature poetry, short fiction, and visual art from across BR, Louisiana, and the U.S. — including 41 poems, 12 pieces of visual art, and five short stories were submitted.
“For us, it’s definitely a new endeavor, producing a youth works on such a large scale,” said Rose. “We’ve done smaller chapbooks in the past, but this is something that will involve not just the youth of Baton Rouge, but across Louisiana and some even from outside of the state. We’re galvanizing all of that work into something that we can physically place into people’s hands.”
All of Crushed Canvas’ leading Editorial Board members are 17 to 18 years old and all are students McKinley High School. Amber Torrence, 17, is the journal’s Editorial Manager and oversees every aspect of the magazine.
Torrence said that naming the journal was the first and one of the most difficult steps she and her staff took. They eventually settled for a name they knew would grab attention.
“It took us a while to figure out what to call it out of all our ideas. In the end we picked what we thought sounded best; we took a vote and got Crushed Canvas and we were like, ‘oh, that’s nice on the tongue.’”
Jennifer Deschner, 18, is the Head Poetry Editor and in charge of the journal’s backbone. All of the 41 poetry submissions – on average a page in length – are sent to her and an assistant. The pair then scores the submissions according to a rubric Rose created.
“We look at creativity, tone, clarity, literary devices; these things really make poetry,” she said. “And the poems with all the highest of the highest scores are going to competition, not just in the journal.”
Like Torrence, Deschner’s experience with editing the journal’s content has inspired her to step up the quality of her own craft.
“I’ve very much been in a rut with how I write my poetry; I have a formula that I more or less stick to,” said Deschner. “Some of the submissions that I’ve seen are written in ways that I never even thought was possible. They challenged me to twist things up a little bit, which is kind of scary because I liked my rut. But I very quickly realized that my poems were not the best out of this bunch, so it definitely is a growing experience.”
When he isn’t editing short fiction submissions for grammar and word count, Fiction Editor Erin Collins, 18, is reconciling the spheres of poetry and fiction.
“I remember we had received a very abstract piece, which I loved; it’s one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever read,” he said. “Some of the poetry editors were concerned about its clarity, but I defended it; I think the confusion of it helped the story along.”
Collins says that most of the submissions he has approved are in the realm of sci-fi, historical fiction, and horror – all genres popular with writers and readers his age. His own novel, which so far has four chapters, is based on Norse mythology with sci-fi elements.
“On day it will be a book, but when I sit down to write, I just go ‘whew, I’m tired,’” he said. “But I do think working on this journal has given me some new ideas and maybe I’ll snap out of that.”
The launch of Crushed Canvas will be on Friday, May 8 during the ReVision performance at the Art Council for Greater Baton Rouge’s Firehouse Gallery at 7 p.m. More information can be found at forwardarts.org