Verses and pub grub: the literary community of Burning Swamp

Julia Fechter

Many people enjoy going out for food and a drink after their classes or jobs. Others like to relax by pursuing their creative endeavors. A group from Georgia Southern University’s Statesboro campus will resume an event that combines both of those things.

Writing and linguistics students from GS and other community members will gather at the next open-mic reading session, called Burning Swamp, at Eagle Creek Brewery on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

What is Burning Swamp?

Professor Benjamin Drevlow from the writing and linguistics department explained he and his students appreciated the chance to interact with people downtown in a venue like the brewery, which is more than just a bar.

“It’s a really sort of family, close, small-town atmosphere, too, so it’s not like ‘Where have I just walked into?’” Drevlow added. 

He listed the different genres that participants share, which range from original poetry and fiction excerpts to nonfiction pieces and screenplays.

“We’re pretty open to if people want to read something that they’ve read, just love and want to perform,” Drevlow said.

While GS students often participate in Burning Swamp, Drevlow explained how people who come to the brewery without knowing about the event have also participated. 

“You kind of see their faces. They’re like ‘What’s this? I came out for a beer,’” he said. “But then, they’re listening and they hear them performing and they’re like, ‘These people have things to say. They’re pouring their heart into it.’”

Student experience

Some of the students, such as senior philosophy and writing and linguistics major Matthew Howard (they/them), have been participating in the reading sessions for multiple years. Howard described some of their experiences with Burning Swamp since they began attending between two and three years ago. 

“‘The first time I ever read at Swamp, [it was] super impulsively, the day of. I got up there, and my heart was absolutely racing,” Howard said. “I read two poems that were, one of them was this cheesy love poem about a dead whale — which I guess means it’s not a cheesy love poem. One of them was this really caustic story about a one-night stand.”

Though they felt their delivery was not polished due to nervousness, Howard mentioned that people from the audience still approached them and offered encouragement. 

“Over time, I’ve been able to see myself move into that role as I get more comfortable with the Burning Swamp community,” Howard said. 

Howard talked about how they find themself more often reaching out to people, particularly those attending the reading for the first time, and offering them that same encouragement that Howard received when they started attending. 

Howard said, “That kind of heartfelt appreciation for each other’s craft is probably my favorite thing about Swamp.”