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Campus radio station showcases aspiring writers, musicians

by Cara Motowidlo - February 6, 2006

Imagine experiencing the best of the literary world right at your fingertips — with no reading glasses needed.

English Ph.D. candidates Ken Cormier and Aaron Sander, co-editors of a new radio magazine, The Lumberyard on WHUS 91.7 FM, are “channeling” talented aspiring writers and musicians on their radio show.

Each episode includes writers and poets, mainly from Connecticut, who recite one of their works. The Lumberyard provides the feel of a literary journal with the turn of a dial.

“We work very hard to create the format that simulates the experience of leafing through a literary magazine,” says Cormier. “The array of voices and music each week form a sort of sound collage.”

Their message is as direct as their medium.

“The title The Lumberyard brings up the idea of raw materials,” Sander says. The show is a variety of sometimes eccentric contributions by undergraduate and graduate students. At the end of each broadcast, you can hear Sander’s six-year-old son Gareth recite anything from Emily Dickinson to Robert Frost.

“We want The Lumberyard to be a place where new and unpublished writing and new and unreleased songs can find a home,” says Cormier. “While we also feature some published and established poets and authors, the main mission of the show is to give those up-and-coming writers and artists an audience they might not otherwise reach.”

The Lumberyard also features faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, such as English professors Marilyn Nelson, Poet Laureate of Connecticut; Sam Pickering, author of more than a dozen books of essays; and Penelope Pelizzon, director of the Creative Writing Program.

Cormier and Sander say The Lumberyard holds the possibility of engaging an audience beyond the circle of academics, poets, writers, and literary enthusiasts.

“Radio listeners are the right audience. The mind is then left to fill in the visual gaps,” Sander says.

Aaron Sander, foreground, and Ken Cormier, doctoral students in English, co-host The Lumberyard, a new radio magazine for writers and musicians, at the WHUS studio.
Aaron Sander, foreground, and Ken Cormier, doctoral students in English, co-host The Lumberyard, a new radio magazine for writers and musicians, at the WHUS studio.
Photo by Peter Morenus

The program’s music features local, mainly independent, musicians in the early stages of their careers. Recent bands featured include Wet Paint Forever, the Damien Pratt, and Heatlamp. The presence of musicians brings a fresh approach to each of the readings.

“I think the music really manages the tone. It gives the listener a chance to digest the poems and stories,” Sanders says.

In addition to being co-editors of The Lumberyard, both Cormier and Sander are assistant directors of the Creative Writing program. In March, they plan to attend the Association of Writers and Writers’ Programs annual conference in Austin, Texas.

“We’ll bring a remote recording set and literally run around the conference looking for writers who have some of their stuff with them,” Cormier says. “This way, we hope to get some good recordings of writers from around the country.”

Adds Sander: “We aim to have the program nationally syndicated.”

The 30-minute program is featured biweekly from 5 to 5:30 p.m. on WHUS, the University-based station.

There are three ways to listen to The Lumberyard: Radio WHUS (91.7 FM), streaming audio from www.whus.org, or a podcast from www.thelumberyardjournal. libsyn.com.

Cara Motowidlo is a senior majoring in English.

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