'Skanky Possum' hit at Penn

Hoa Nguyen and Dale Smith shared their experiences in publishing a small journal.

The Daily Pennsylvanian
September 20, 2002

Sitting and eating comfortably around the dining room table, an intimate group gathered to discuss micro-publishing at the Kelly Writers House yesterday afternoon. Hoa Nguyen and her husband Dale Smith traveled to Penn from Austin, Texas, to share their experiences in publishing a small-press poetry journal. Both are also published poets themselves.

While enjoying hummus, pita, spanikopeda and greek desserts, the entire group participated in a lively and informal discussion. Nguyen and Smith brought along their 14-month-old son, Keaton, whose presence added to the personal ambiance of the event.

Nguyen and Smith's magazine, entitled Skanky Possum, was passed around the table, along with examples of other small-press publications in which their work has been featured.

Skanky Possum, a small, staple-bound magazine, has received some national recognition. Four poems from the magazine were selected to be printed in The Best American Poetry, a prestigious journal.

Thomas Devaney, program coordinator at the Writers House, contacted the writers and invited them to campus.

"It's great to bring in younger writers who are distinguishing themselves both in their own work and in small-press publishing," Devaney said. "Their work seems to me to cultivate community."

Nguyen explained the idea of small-press publishing as "creating a hearth space, a place people can gather, though not in the physical sense, to share ideas and poetry."

The publishers reflected on the way they said poetry is hidden in today's culture, and how very few celebrity poets are nationally recognized.

"I would hope that young writers would have a sense of how important it is to create a community sense for poets," Smith said.

He also explained that there are very few places to publish poetry. "I hope this discussion will inspire young writers to seek out work from established writers and make their own magazines," Smith said.

Two magazines are published by the Writers House -- Cross Connect and Penn Review.

College senior Brian Cope created his own poetry magazine on campus, entitled Shrinkwrapped.

"I wanted to see if the writers are interested in anything published in the magazines on campus and to hear about creating a literary entity, which is something I'm definitely interested in," Cope said.

The audience was diverse, composed of undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and members of the Philadelphia writing community.

Lauren Rile Smith, a part-time student in the College of General Studies, has participated in Nguyen's internet creative writing workshop for years.

"It was interesting to finally meet her in person," she said. "I'm also interested in starting a magazine."

"I'm on the Writers House mailing list," said Ebony Collier, a 23-year-old senior at Temple University who attended the lunchtime discussion. "I just thought this sounded interesting."