Mixed Emotions

Footnotes release brings laughter, tears as writers recite works

BY CAROLINE DASTUGUE

Editor

    From humorous to heartwrenching, the release party for Haas Hall Academy’s third volume of its literary arts magazine packed an emotional punch. Writers read their pieces aloud to faculty, scholars and parents, who gathered at Onyx Coffee Lab in Springdale on Sept. 15.

     Since 2015, Footnotes has given scholars the space and support to publish their writing, art or photography. The magazine has a track record for being articulate and profound as evidenced by its 2016 Magazine Pacemaker Award. This honor was bestowed to the magazine’s second volume by the National Scholastic Press Association, an award comparable to the Pulitzer Prize for high schools. 

     The theme for the 2017 issue is Pigments — an exploration of color and perspectives, which became heartfelt and emotional at the release party. 

     “Pigments is about identity—how we all differ slightly, but we are also all on the color spectrum; so we are all connected in a way,” Footnotes editor Helen Maynard said. “Each page has its own color on the bottom right, but if you look at the side, you see the full color spectrum together, because we are all united.” 

     In addition to the sale of Footnotes, six authors read their works at the event. Maynard, a Fayetteville senior who has been part of the magazine since its debut, started the event by reading “A  Knock on the Door,” a humorous piece by alumnus Pearce Hungate. Bentonville junior Taylor Poe, Bentonville sophomore Ian Curriden, and Fayetteville seniors Isabelle Williams, Casey Wong and Javian Walter went on to read their pieces from the magazine.

     The authors sat around a circular table. One by one, they shared their works and brought life and complexity to the words on the page. 

     “I like to watch people read what they write, because you can always see a bit more of their personality,” Poe, the Bentonville editor, said. “Seeing them read their pieces offers you a whole new perspective from you just reading it. You get to see a piece of them, and that’s really nice.”

     By the end of the release party, the readings had become emotional. Wong began to tear up as she read her poem “Melanin,” which describes the discrimination she faced as an Asian-American living in New York City. 

     “Listening to Casey read her poem was very touching,” Footnotes adviser Karen Henry said. “When I heard Casey read, I felt it. Hearing the authors read what they’ve written takes their writing to a whole new level.”

     Other writers also addressed race and ethnicity in Footnotes. Walter’s short story, “Strange Fruit,” inspired by the poem and song of the same name, chronicles the life of a young black man who watches his father lynched and then goes on to commit horrible acts. 

     “Race and ethnicity are really interesting things to explore, especially when talking about how revenge works and the psychology of revenge in society,” Walter said. “There is such a deeper level with revenge to explore, because you can argue whether revenge is justified.”

     Both Walter and Wong had strong motivations for publishing their emotional pieces, especially in a literary magazine where different perspectives and viewpoints are championed. 

     “This issue definitely gets heated. I wanted to bring those opinions out. I wanted to make this something that should be talked about,” Walter said. “Any art about this period in United States history should make people discuss why this (slavery and lynching) happened and how we should not let it happen again. I hope all the pieces inspire some form of thought or discussion.”

     Wong agreed that it is important for race and discrimination to be discussed.

     “As an Asian-American, I constantly face discrimination,” Wong said. “With racial tension, I thought it was an important piece to write because it is so relevant right now. It was really personal, but I felt that a lot of other people of color—students at Haas Hall of color—could relate to that, and they did.”

     The Pigments theme highlighted individuality, which took a broad scope among some of the pieces featured. 

     “I think it was amazing how many different perspectives we got, how many issues were tackled, how many people had a really unique view about the world that was different and they had a unique way of expressing that—which I absolutely loved,” Poe said.

     Those who read at the release party impacted those in attendance, and exemplified the significance of the literary magazine and the outlet it gives young writers. Footnotes’ contribution to the Haas Hall community goes beyond being another activity to add to resumes. The magazine is a way for scholars to feel validated and express themselves. 

     “The magazine represents a really interesting part of the creative aspect of Haas,” Walter said. “It really helps bring out the artistic side of the students. It’s an important and present part of our community, but it doesn’t get to be expressed as much. It exemplifies how creative our students are and how diverse their viewpoints are.”

Photo by SOPHIA ROBERTS
Haas Hall Bentonville junior Taylor Poe, left, and sophomore Ian Curriden look at the 2017 edition of Footnotes during the magazine’s release party at Onyx in Springdale Sept. 15.
Photo by KAREN HENRY
Haas Hall Fayetteville senior Casey Wong reads her poem, “Melanin,” at the Footnotes release party at Onyx in Springdale Sept. 22.