Ally Wright, an MFA student in writing at the Savannah School of Art and Design, read a prose piece in which she discussed the “land of forgotten things” and the sadness she felt after losing her charm bracelet, a precious gift. Matt Sailor, editor in chief of New South, read two prose works. The first, an essay filled with long, running sentences, addressed the “crash” of the video game industry in 1983, which was topped off with the failed “E.T.” game. Sailor smartly interpreted the crash as “a holy purge, the clean burn that leaves the forest smoking, but ripe for the taking root of fragile seeds.”
Aaron Belz, a poet based in North Carolina, read a handful of short poems, which drew laughter from the audience. In “My Best Wand,” he read, “Of all the magic wands / I’ve bought over the years, / only the steel one / with the sharp tip really works — you put it / into someone and say / ABRACADABRA / and the person magically / becomes wounded.”
The readers represent the mixture that the organizers, writers Jamie Iredell, Amy McDaniel and Blake Butler, have aimed for since they founded the series in 2008. McDaniel, author of Selected Adult Lessons, describes it as “a nice, or intentionally unnerving in some cases, balance (or just the right clashing) of things and people.” The series’ name is taken from the title of a 1931 Surrealist text by Georges Bataille.
The trio wanted to introduce Atlanta to more avant-garde literature and authors less recognized than those who dominate the readings circuit. Not surprisingly, their choices of readers reflect their interests. For instance, Butler, whose book Sky Saw has just been released, has been described as a 21st-century William Burroughs.
“We do tend to be on the more ‘experimental’ side of things,” says Iredell, author of The Book of Freaks and Prose. Poems. A Novel and a professor of writing at SCAD. “We’re pretty open, too. Really, it’s just if the writer’s work grabs us.”
That approach has served Atlanta well. Solar Anus has brought some the country’s most forward-thinking writers to town, including Johannes Goransson, Sabrina Orah Mark, David Lehman, Dara Wier and Scott McClanahan.
Usually held at Beep Beep, the sessions occur irregularly and often combine out-of-town and local writers. Despite minimal marketing, primarily relying on Facebook and word of mouth, the series has grown a following. McDaniel, who once described an early reading as having a reader-to-organizer-to-audience ratio of one to one to one, complained half-jokingly after the most recent reading that she had to sit on the floor because there were no empty seats.
Solar Anus will host Justin Maurer, author of Seventeen Television, a new collection of stories, on March 22 at Beep Beep.