The Story of Freshwater
The first issue of Freshwater, published in May 2000, was open to submissions from the faculty, staff, and students from the twelve Connecticut community colleges. We published work by poets from Asnuntuck, Gateway, Manchester, Middlesex, Three Rivers, and Tunxis. The 2001 issue published work by poets from Asnuntuck, Gateway, Housatonic, Manchester, Quinebaug, and Tunxis Community Colleges, and Central, Eastern, and Western Connecticut State Universities. We opened the 2002 issue to submissions from the general public and received nine hundred poems from twenty-seven states and five different countries, and we published poets from twenty states. For our 2011 issue, we received over two thousand poems from almost every state in the union, as well as a submission or two from abroad! We are now approaching our thirteenth year of Asnuntuck Community College's internationally known poetry journal, and we continue to receive submissions from poets, known and unknown, around the country and the world.
Freshwater also sponsors the Asnuntuck Student Poetry Contest which is open to all Connecticut community college and state university students. A nationally known poet judges the contest, and next year's judge for the 20th Annual contest is Connecticut Poet Laureate Dick Allen. In addition to having their work featured in Freshwater, the winning students read their work at the Freshwater Poetry Festival in May of each year. The festival celebrates the publication of the magazine and features workshops and readings by Connecticut poets, such as Robert Cording, Margaret Gibson, Gray Jacobik, Bessy Reyna, Steve Straight, Ellen Dore Watson, Jon Andersen, Kate Rushin, and Lynn Hoffman.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Freshwater story is our former President Irlen’s innovative idea that students should receive credit for working to produce the magazine. This idea led to the creation of the Poetry Magazine Production Course, in which students hone their critical reading and writing skills, their publishing skills, and their creative writing ability, as well as learning to deal with the public. Students in the course read and select poems for the magazine; design and write posters and flyers; organize and complete a series of mailings; write acceptance and rejection letters, commenting on the poets’ work; examine other magazines for layout and design ideas; read and discuss the work of possible workshop leaders for the festival; and explore sources of alternative funding. Students are also required to write a minimum of five poems, which are work-shopped in the class. In addition to these tasks, students in the second semester of the course make the final selection of poems, work on layout of the magazine, and plan the poetry festival.
The past twelve years of working with students on the magazine and the festival have been one of the most exciting teaching experiences of my career, watching students blossom as they discover and use new talents and strengthen old skills. As they take greater and greater responsibility, they experience a sense of deep accomplishment and pride in Asnuntuck and the extraordinary creative endeavor called Freshwater.