November 26, 2014

Zine: Letters From Bummer Camp Vol I

Letters from Bummer Camp unites us emotional campers.

Letters From Bummer Camp Press is a zine publisher and distro hailing from New Brunswisk, NJ. Founded by Alyssa Rorke, LFBC is committed to D.I.Y principles while uplifting artists and their work. The self-published zine Letters From Bummer Camp: Volume One is a collection of writing and artwork from eighteen different artists and writers from Texas to the United Kingdom. The pieces vary in structure, and at times there is a somber yet comical tone within the zine that highlights the rawness of the work. Each poem seems to have another story behind it. While reading I felt that if I peeled back a layer, another would reveal itself and lead me deeper into the poets’ narrative.

“Letters From Bummer Camp came to me as naturally as bunkmate [Rorke's personal zine] did, because I knew it would be something of an offshoot from bunkmate, but with a more collective/community building mission," Rorke stated. "So if you break it down, you could say Camp is full of bunkmates, and unlike summer camp, Bummer Camp lasts all year round. The Letters, or the zines I put out, or the entries in the compilation zines, are the work of the bunkmates. And just like at camp, bunkmates usually start out as strangers and are placed in these sleepover-type scenarios, where they might accidentally share secrets and let their life stories spill out to each other. They can choose to either make the most of it, become friends, or ignore each other entirely. I like to believe in the former option, a finding that sense of connection and community. I hope that anyone who has work involved with Letters from Bummer Camp feels the same."

The classic D.I.Y vibe, format and artwork led me to believe that the zine name originated from a personal camp reference, but my interpretation was wrong and Rorke explained: “It comes generally from the phenomenon of finding a connection or sense of community in an unexpected place.” This sense of community is not only strong but I felt that it encapsulated unheard thoughts and feelings. There were moments when I felt that I had stumbled upon someone’s journal. There is a level of vulnerability in the zine where writers are able to tell stories without hesitation. 

“Yes, my work and the distro is a safe space," Rorke commented. "In my calls for submissions I say upfront that anything containing oppressive or harmful themes of any kind will not be accepted or represented by me. And I can't speak for others who work with me, but I can confidently say that it is definitely MY safe place. I'm actually working on a new zine about blogging as performance and personal archive. It'll touch on how, no matter the initial intention, a blogging platform can backfire as a safe space. It'll be about my own experiences writing and blogging (specifically on Tumblr) and address trauma and recovery. It's a lot of self-reflection about things I've chosen to share on Tumblr and what made Tumblr stop being a safe space for me. And THAT is generally where the undertone of this community came from, because when I realized that blogging wasn't the best outlet for me, I turned to zines. I realized zines (and creative writing) were the more constructive medium through which to share radical stories and ideas.”

There is a unique rebelliousness when an author expresses themselves unapologetically. For this to happen there must be a space to do so,  and this kind of space is exactly what Letters From Bummer Camp creates.

Read the full issue of Letters From Bummer Camp Vol. 1 here.

Judith Jones is a writer, blogger and angry intersectional feminist from the South. When she is not reading feminist theory, making zines or eating donuts she can be found on Twitter and Tumblr.