There's a lot of talk by Chamber of Commerce types and community cheerleaders about accentuating the positive things that happen in Rockford, instead of emphasizing the steady stream of awful national news stories and polls showing how violent, fat, dumb, and miserable the city is, and that's why I'm constantly mystified that while so many good things are going on in the arts, music, small business, and food industry. that those civic cheerleaders seem to have no desire to talk about those people actually doing what they say we need more of. If you're not in their small circle of people, places, and things THEY find significant, you might as well be one of the homeless people they so assiduously avoid while Downtown partying it up.
BUT those good things do exist right here in Rockford, even if the media, the Chamber of Commerce, and the myriad small business groups and associations don't have any desire to talk about it. One of those things is the Rock River Literary Series. The creation of publisher Thomas L. Vaultonburg of Zombie Logic Press, located in the virtual geographic center of the city, the series is an effort to find, publish, and promote the most accomplished writers in the Rockford area, and expose them to a local and national audience. The third book in the series, The Blood Dark Sea, was published in May. It is available at Phoenix Traders and at the Zombie Logic Press website.
Dennis Gulling is a nationally published poet with a thirty year career of being recognized as one of the nation's top Outlaw Poets. He edited the literary review crawlspace from 1990-1999, and has appeared in dozens of magazines and periodicals, but in Rockford he is virtually anonymous, and likes it that way. Although he prefers to take a low key approach to his work, I feel he deserves a great deal of accolades for writing what I consider one of the best poetry books that will be released this year in America, bar none. As the publisher of this book I bear the brunt of the responsibility for promoting it, but this is the third time I have encountered substantial media apathy when trying to promote a book locally that is every bit on par with the books being released at a national level. Shaming the devil is one approach that has born some success, but I really don't want to have to do that eternally. It's a huge effort for me.
The civic minded leaders of Rockford are free not to promote whatever they want, but when they do I wish they'd also quit bitching about nothing good happening in Rockford, or people consistently pointing out the problems that are happening. Do they expect us all to just be quiet while the ship is going down unless we just so happen to be supporting the handful of venues, businesses, and events they consider worthwhile? I actually think that's exactly what they expect, but it ain't happenin'.
Iced Cream by Jesus Abraham Correa VII was the first book in the Rock River Literary Series. Jesus is a magnificent, innovative, and multi-talented artist who many remember as running for mayor as a Green Party candidate in 2009. He is also a stand-up comic, visual artist, parade leader, spoken word artist, and the front man of various bands, including King of the Demons. I am extremely proud of this book, which contains poems, short stories, and eight works of art by a local artist who has shown nationally. I am also proud to say the Rockford arts community gave this book a great reception, and I consider it a huge success. It went out to five continents, but here in Rockford there wasn't much talk about it outside of the arts community that knew what was what.
The Zen of Beard Trimming by C.J. Campbell is the 2nd book in the Rock River Literary Series. It is the memoir of a young activist with cerebral palsy trying to find his place in the evangelical Christian community, and the misadventures he gets involved in along the way. It is at times a funny and depressing book written from the point of view of a writer who witnesses the best and worst of humanity in his travels. The cover artwork was done by my creative partner Jenny Mathews of Rockford Illustrating. I am proud of this book because this is one of the people in Rockford working hard to do good things, and although he encounters resistance and apathy, soldiers on.
All three of these books are available at our local retail partner, Phoenix Traders.