Vouched on the Road: Tuscaloosa With Katy Gunn

16 Jul

Katy Gunn does her thing. That is the best way I can put it. Her words, they flicker and flow straight up. Like this Madness that builds and goes BIG. Like this SHUT UP great piece, where the voice gets sync’d in and wow. Like her hoolahooping and juggling. Like her group art-making hangouts.

Point is, I learned big time on this visit that Katy Gunn, MFA student at the University of Alabama, is a doer, of neat stuff and unusual things and good art and most importantly fun living.

Pre-Visit Mini-Interview with Katy Gunn

1. How long have you lived in Tuscaloosa?

Two years. All the years before that I lived in Georgia, which is just like Tuscaloosa except without as much football and frozen yogurt, and the grasshoppers are smaller.

2. What are your favorite pieces of Tuscaloosa?

I like to go walking and look at the houses, sometimes inside them. People here don’t shut their blinds and often their doors. I also like my neighborhood, a gathering spot for wine and circus activities.

3. What brought you to Tuscaloosa? What keeps you in Tuscaloosa?

The MFA program, the juggling lessons.

4. How has Tuscaloosa influenced your writing?

People are always inviting everyone over to sit on their porches or with their cats so we can write in big groups. I get more done this way. If I stop writing, even to read National Geographic, Brandi glares at me and stomps her hooves. So I have to be really terribly motivated.

5. If you could live in any city, what would it be and why?

Someplace with a big lake and sailboats, lots of parks and gardens, cobblestone paths with shade trees, no cars, no televisions in any of the restaurants or houses, and maybe some orchards.

6. How’s the literary scene in Tuscaloosa?

Steamy.

7. Describe Tuscaloosa in three words.

Mostly always steamy.

8. What are you most stoked to show me in Tuscaloosa?

Mostly the people. We could go around and knock on doors and make them show you all the cool things they do. This is Jake, he is a tightrope-walker. This is Emma, she cooks things that require machinery. This is Mahaney, he juggles glowing clubs.

Also I’ll probably make you hula-hoop.

Katy and myself, along with the mega-nice Joshua Helms (check out some of his goodness here), did a house reading early into my visit (thxxxxx to Matthew Mahaney and Betsy Seymour for hosting us!). A cast of MFA pals and others chilled on couches as we rattled our words in a big open room. Due to the chattering with all these cool folks, I got lost in the evening and didn’t catch a good recording of Katy’s set, but she was kind enough to record her piece for us, a big hunk of The Madness.

Katy was really rad in inviting me into her world. Inviting me over for the daily writing/craft time she has with fellow Roll Tide MFA-ers like Mahaney and Brandi Wells (check this lady’s new book poisonhorse out soon from MLP’s Nephew imprint). Hosting an evening of lawn fun.

I learned quickly, even before I saw her do her hollahoopin’ thing, that Katy was serious (in the total joy way) about hoolahooping. When I went to visit for writing/art time, I saw this big hoop collection chilling in the corner. At the lawn party I discovered that Katy actually makes all of her own hoolahoops, and even shares them with her pals!

The bug, that itch, to hoop, too, she shares with her pals, like Brandi Wells below, Katy’s ultimate hoopin’ pal. And really it is astounding, the tricks and the control (enough joy came from me when I could keep it on my waist), how Katy and pals can move the hoop around their bodies, how they “get” the movements, how the hoopin’ illuminates some unique joy (one I’ve only personally felt playing disc golf).

Fellow MFA student Jake Kinstler brought out his slack line, a new circus-y task Katy is learning. And boy is that a sweaty challenge (the BAMA heat didn’t help either), beyond balance, requiring a spry hop-to-it self I can’t conjure up (though I tried, I swear, I tried!).

Below is a rowdy painting Katy has done. Yeah, yeah, she dips into other arts, like painting and crocheting, fun outlets exercising an alternate artistic spirit from writing. She is also crafty with stuff like food and drink, my favorite being the fruit vodka she’s been making, jarring various fruits with vodka and letting them mingle in the fridge for a bit.

Writing-wise, she also knows how to get the business done. She gets together almost daily for group writing, a cool thing I got to be a part of: several of the MFA students, like Mahaney and Wells, in someone’s living room, writing, focused, sans Facebook and such. That’s what I’ve always loved about that program, how the community is a constant chatter around Tuscaloosa, constant talk about current projects and readings, future classes and publications. And Katy seems right at the center of it (and rah-rah-rightfully so).

Point is, I’m nominating Katy Gunn as someone to watch out for, to learn something from, as a writer, as a human being, as a friend.

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