Volume 11: The Practice and Pedagogy of Writing at Black Mountain College

Editors' Note

Writing has never been more significant as a practice of human expression than it is today. Far from a relic of the pre-digital era, textual information is more prevalent in our lives now than ever before. Recent generations are voracious readers and writers, creating and consuming words at a rate that would have been hardly possible to imagine in 1933 when Black Mountain College began. Text comes at us through our laptops, tablets, and cell phones, presenting new challenges in filtering, evaluating, and making responsible use of the flood of information.

Occasionally in this tidal wave of writing, some written words hold their place and take on a lasting transformative role in our collective life.


Scrawled on cardboard with a marker, displayed in elegant hand on poster board, set in font for mass production on t-shirts and bumper stickers, tweeted en masse by individuals around the globe, such words capture something deeper than chatter. They express a collective cry of the soul, for justice, fairness, an equal chance, and the courage to work for transformation of self and society. They show that writing can change the world.

The published writers of Black Mountain College, particularly the poets, have received much scholarly attention. The central place of writing as a practice of the arts in the college’s curriculum has been explored much less. In this issue our contributors address this theme through a variety of kinds of texts, both written and performed. Some are annotated articles; some are poems; some explore the edges of writing where the power of words to evoke depths of pain, wonder, despair, and hope is laid bare.

Practices of writing are within us and all around us. The heritage of Black Mountain College challenges us to reach deep toward the place where things come together, and the most important things—which are often the simplest—come into words that call out their truth.

–Thomas E. Frank + Carissa Pfeiffer, Co-Editors (journalbmcstudies@gmail.com

Table of Contents

Thomas E. Frank + Carissa Pfeiffer, Co-Editors
Kate Averett, Production Editor

October 2020

Article: “the pencil, the brush, the chisel”: Black Mountain College and the Practice of Writing
by Jonathan C. Creasy 

Photography: Black Mountain College Portfolios by Ant M Lobo
Article: Robert Wunsch and the Teaching of Creative Writing by Lucy Burns
Excerpts: What Days Are Like When There Are Only Nights: graphic novel by Ben Miller
Article: Olson’s Poetics and Pedagogy by Jeff Gardiner
Poetry: Letters to Maximus by Amanda Cook
From the Archives: “Surrounded by Cellophane”: Histcollages and Memories of Black Mountain College by Mary Parks Washington
Article: Centrality of Black Mountain Poetry by N. S. Boone
Poetry/Performance: Lucy and Surely by Ronaldo V. Wilson
Article: Beautiful Situations? James Leo Herlihy’s Adventures at Black Mountain College and After by Robert P. Ward
Installation: After the Wake Up by Sherrill Roland
Essay: Face Changer by Ben Hall
Excerpts: Black Mountain John Chamberlain, edited by Julie Sylvester
Review: Dewey for Artists by Mary Jane Jacob by Thomas E. Frank


Cover Image: Mary Parks Washington, Aunt Gussie (detail), 1996. Acrylic/collage on canvas, 30 x 30 inches. Courtesy of the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History and the Estate of Mary Parks Washington, previously exhibited in Mary Parks Washington’s solo exhibition Atlanta: Remembrances, Impressions and Reflections, held March 2 – May 23, 1996. “Aunt Gussie loved her umbrella and carried it rain or shine. Perhaps it was her shield of protection from the unhappy world she lived in. Her focus was paying her weekly insurance policy and planning for a fine funeral.”

The authors (or their estates, and/or publishers) retain full copyright to the texts and media appearing herein,
which may not be reproduced elsewhere without their express permission.