from Nathan C. Martin and Friends.
Artwork by Gary Oaks from Intersection | New Orleans (Danneel and Valence Streets)
Artwork by Gary Oaks from Intersection | New Orleans (Danneel and Valence Streets)

By Anne Gisleson

July marks the five-year anniversary of the first book published by Press Street, Intersection | New Orleans, a massive collaboration between local writers and artists, the production of which was split by Hurricane Katrina. Over the next few days we will post excerpts from that book. As an introduction, Press Street’s co-founder and Board President Anne Gisleson recalls the project’s inception, and where it fits in the historical context of what is now the thriving St. Claude Arts District.

Read Carolyn Hembree’s poem “O Pony of South Derbigny O Leaping Yellow”

As the St. Claude Arts District gears up for the coming of the international biennial Prospect 2, I remembered that it had been five years since Press Street put out its first book, Intersection|New Orleans, whose release spawned the first indoor art show on St. Claude Avenue. In 2006, there was no St. Claude Arts District—only the wrecked avenue, where Jeffery Holmes and Andrea Garland made art installations on the neutral ground with Upper 9th Ward Katrina debris shortly after the storm passed. Jeffery and Andrea were in the process of building out a gallery, l’art noir, on St. Claude near Mazant Street, and agreed to host the one-night art show and literary reading in their mostly gutted space.

There were no walls—only studs studded with hundreds of nails—but there was a litter of kittens, a coffin, pieces of garden statuary, and other transitional detritus of a place that got torn up just as it was being built up, only to be torn up some more and built back up again. It reflected the overall schizophrenic endeavors of the city at the time.

We pulled the nails from the studs, worked the shopvac to exhaustion, made temporary walls out of brown contractor paper (which conveniently matched the book’s cover), hung the art as respectfully as we could, and had a party.

It was July and there was no air-conditioning. Hundreds of people showed up, some of whom had never been to that part of town. The readers—among them Lolis Eric Elie, Ken Foster, Carolyn Hembree, Dean Paschal, and Martin Pousson—were shiny, damp, and game. They read under rigged clamp lights in the storefront window. We sweated, we sold lots of books, and we even sold some art.  An Americorps crew showed up fresh from gutting houses and drained the keg.

The Intersection|New Orleans project had started in the early summer of 2005 with “planning meetings” at Markey’s Bar—a blind collaboration between 25 artists and 25 writers. The writers picked a street intersection, which the editors then assigned randomly to artists without the artists having access to the texts. Some pieces began coming in, but then Katrina happened, shuffling lives and fates and the direction of the project.

Artwork by Geoge Schmidt from Intersection | New Orleans (Rampart and Perdido Streets)

All 50 participants remained committed, and we began reeling in poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and hybrid pieces to pair with the arriving artwork. Some work came in before the storm and some after. In addition to the original intent—exploring the intersections between streets, the visual and the literary, public and private—we now had the new collision of pre- and post-Katrina. My husband, artist Brad Benischek, and I coordinated the project. We had a city map in our hallway with pins designating which intersections had been claimed. Eminent graphic designer Tom Varisco designed the book for free, and proceeds helped fund middle school creative writing workshops at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.

St. Claude by Mazant, where the Intersection|New Orleans reading was held, is now the epicenter of the St. Claude Arts District, which has crossed over into a sort of penniless legitimacy held together by the sweat equity of collectives, youthful ambition, and older perspective. Brooklyn and the West Coast keep unloading their creative youth into the city, which is fun, energizing,  and relieves some of the fatigue some of us are feeling almost six years out from Katrina.

Most of the Intersection writers are still around town: Chris Chambers, Peter Cooley, Moira Crone, Lolis Eric Elie, Randy Fertel,  Ken Foster, Patty Friedmann, Emilie Griffin Henry Griffin, Carolyn Hembree,  Dean Paschal, Brad Richard, Christine Wiltz, and Andy Young. And some have gone on to do good elsewhere:  Josh Emmons, Katie Ford, Wells Tower, Jill Marquis, Martin Pousson, David Lee Simmons, Ed Skoog, Elizabeth Urschel, and Amanda Eyre Ward. Some aren’t publishing as much as I wish they would. Some are having very successful writing careers. Most of us just trying to reconcile busy lives and writing and eek work out the best we can.


Hand-in-Glove Conference Guide

Hand in Glove Conference Guide
Essay by Amy Mackie, edited by Bob Snead, designed by Erik Keisewetter

This beautiful book, designed and printed by Erik Kiesewetter of Constance for the Hand-in-Glove Conference, includes a guide to all of the conference happenings Oct 17-20, 2013, an informative map of the artist run spaces on and around St. Claude Ave, and an extensive essay by Amy Mackie about the history of self organized contemporary art [...]

Photo by Sophie Lvoff in WE'RE PREGNANT

We’re Pregnant
Words by Nathan Martin. Photography by Akasha Rabut, Sophie T. Lvoff, and Grissel Giuliano.

We’re Pregnant is a chapbook of short fiction by Room 220 editor Nathan C. Martin along with photography by Akasha Rabut, Sophie T. Lvoff, and Grissel Giuliano. The book contains three of Martin’s short stories—which explore in morbid fashion anxieties related to sex, disease, marriage, and childbirth—with images inspired by the stories from each of the photographers.

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The People Is Singular
Poems by Andy Young and Photographs by Salwa Rashad

The People Is Singular, by local poet Andy Young and Egyptian photographer Salwa Rashad, is a personal response to the Egyptian Revolution. Rashad’s vision includes everyday people—Muslims and Christians, young and old, the foregrounded and the peripheral. Her perspective is from inside the events as they unfolded. Andy Young, a New Orleans poet married to [...]

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Curtain Optional
by Brad and Jim Richard

In both poetry and prose, Brad Richard explores the influence of his father’s work on his own, as well as the experience of growing up as the son of an artist while becoming an artist himself. Jim Richard is a professor of painting at the University of New Orleans and has exhibited at the Solomon [...]


How to Rebuild a City
Edited by Anne Gisleson & Tristan Thompson w/ design and artistic direction by Catherine Burke

Beautifully designed, sometimes fun, always informative, How to Rebuild a City: Field Guide from a work in Progress, is a reflection of the many ways that New Orleanians have realized our way towards recovery, actively and creatively engaging with our communities.


Bitter Ink
by Brian Zeigler & Raymond “Moose” Jackson

BBoth originally from Detroit, cousins Brian Zeigler and Raymond “Moose” Jackson began collaborating while Brian was harboring Moose in Vermont during Katrina evacuation. While their doodling proclivities may have made them rustbelt exiles from the rest of their autoworker family, together they produce seductive aphorisms of wit and weirdness that provoke, confound and celebrate a [...]