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Ukuleles and a bearded dragon are essential to the creative process

English professor Laura-Gray Street, Celina Matthews '19, and Elsker look through some of the submitted poetry and artwork for their project.

English professor Laura-Gray Street, Celina Matthews ’19, and Elsker the bearded dragon look through some of the submitted poetry and artwork for their project.

If you walk up to the fourth floor of Smith Hall this summer, you might hear the sound of music coming from English professor Laura-Gray Street’s office. And if you enter, you’ll probably find Street and Celina Matthews ’19 strumming ukuleles while a bearded dragon named Elsker watches intently from her perch on Matthews’s shoulder.

It’s all part of the creative process for the pair, who are compiling poetry and artwork for an anthology that will be published by the University of Georgia Press later this year. Street is co-editing the work, which she describes as a creative field guide for the Appalachian region. The book will include poetry, illustrations, and creative descriptions for more than 60 animal and plant species native to the area.

“It’s about raising awareness for the very unique attributes of these different areas and the species that live there,” Street explained. “Some are very widely found, and some are particular to a very small niche in the region.”

Matthews is assisting Street in the editing process as part of a Summer Research project and is also planning a launch party which will incorporate some of the specimens in Randolph’s Natural History Collection. She wrote her own manuscript about ecopoetry for one of Street’s classes, and was eager to explore the topic further.

Close-up of artwork that will be included in the anthology“I really liked the culmination of science and literature,” Matthews said. “Not too many people want to undertake this kind of project, but it combines some of the things I’m really interested in.”

They are now working hard to meet their June 30 deadline for all the material they are editing.

“One thing I’ve been excited about is that Celina is really getting a view into what it’s like to work with a printing company and how to format the poems and images,” Street said. “I think it’s a good lesson for any student because they’re so used to teachers telling them they need to submit papers in MLA and other formats, and in the real world and in projects like this it’s very useful to know all of them.”

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