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The Publications Unit’s PRESS 254 hosted an evening of poetry to launch two new chapbooks.

Illinois State’s Publications Unit celebrated the PRESS 254 Word Bombing Chapbook Launch and Reading event May 3 for two alumni poetry projects: Voids Before the Abyss by Michael Gibson Wollitz, Ph.D. ’17, and Fireflies Can Sing by Lasantha Rodrigo, Ph.D. ’14.


Front cover featuring: Maersk containers overlayed with a shipping map of the world

Front cover of Michael Gibson Wollitz’s PRESS 254 chapbook, Voids Before the Abyss

The launch reading attracted a standing-room only crowd to the Publications Unit, including students, family, faculty, alumni, community members, and even local media from TV-10 News. The poetry reading was followed by a reception and book signing.

PRESS 254 is a fully operational teaching press and publishing workshop at the Department of English’s Publications Unit. The students enrolled in English 254, Introduction to Professional Publishing, spend the semester as production assistants for PRESS 254, and they work through the entire production process to publish chapbook projects by selected local authors. The work includes copy editing, designing, and typesetting, all the way to hand-stitching the binding, setting up the launch reading, and selling the chapbooks.

Front cover featuring: stylized cinnamon sticks and transparent green box holding the title "Fireflies Can Sing"

Front cover of Lasantha Rodrigo’s PRESS 254 chapbook, Fireflies Can Sing

Under the direction of Holms Troelstrup in the spring semester, PRESS 254 selects authors from the Word Bombing Reading series—an informal, rapid-fire reading series here in Normal, that was founded in 2009 by Illinois State alumni Alan Lin ’10, M.S. ’12; Jordan Cox ’10, M.S. ’12; and Evan Nave, ’10, M.S. ’12, Ph.D ’17. Wollitz co-curated the reading series for three years, and Rodrigo has been a contributor since the series was founded. Selecting projects from Word Bombing participants is a way for PRESS 254 to bring publishing experience to undergraduate students while also engaging the community and celebrating the work of local authors by bringing publishing opportunities to writers in and outside the University.

Both chapbooks are available for purchase for $7 from the Publications Unit (in Williams Hall Annex) or online. All proceeds help to fund the project in future semesters. For more information about PRESS 254 or the chapbook projects, contact Holms Troelstrup, assistant director of the Publications Unit and editor of PRESS 254, at or (309) 438-3025.