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Notes from the underground

ASHLAND — Two Southern Oregon University students are encouraging locals to stumble into the gutter — and do some reading while they're there.

Creative writing students Zeke Hudson and Cheri Browne have started an underground literary magazine called Gutter Pulp.

"The basic idea is to get people to read something short and enjoyable, because I don't think enough people read," said Hudson, 23.

The magazine's first edition, printed in early February, features off-color poetry, short stories and art. There's also a "sexiest sentence" contest called the Sex-I-Con and an advice column featuring responses from a "ninja" and "pirate." It's a pamphlet-sized magazine, stapled at the fold.

The 200 copies of the free magazine — distributed at the university's Hannon Library, More Fun Comics downtown and a few stores in Eugene — already have run out.

"So far it's been overwhelmingly positive, which I wasn't entirely expecting because some of the pieces in there are inappropriate," Hudson said. "I was expecting a little more of a backlash."

The editors wanted to print material they felt was literary, but likely would be rejected by many magazines because of coarse language or subject matter, said Browne, 30.

"We wanted to be able to publish people's work that wouldn't necessarily get published anywhere else, just based on the content, or because it's too crass or too flippant," she said.

The resulting content ranges from humorous to bordering on offensive.

For example, the first edition includes a poem by Charles Duncan called "Haiku #2" that reads: "I crashed your new car. / It was wrong to blame raccoons. /I'm a bad driver." Another poem focuses on Ashland's "naked man," whose unclothed jaunts through town stirred up controversy. Gutter Pulp goes beyond the usual journalistic coverage to include descriptions of the man's various body parts.

The magazine features work by students, SOU English Professor K. Silem Mohammad and others from across the state.

Mohammad said he was pleased with what Browne and Hudson produced.

"I thought it was great, funny and cheeky," he said. "It looks like they had a lot of fun with it."

The students were able to print 200 copies of the magazine for free at the university, they said.

Both Browne and Hudson are part of a class taught by Mohammad that puts out the West Wind Review, the university's official literary journal, published annually. The $12 journal will be available next week at the SOU bookstore and Bloomsbury Books downtown.

The class had extra funds for students to do side magazine projects, but only Hudson and Browne took advantage of the opportunity this year, Mohammad said.

Gutter Pulp editors plan to release a second issue next semester, likely in June. Subsequent issues likely will be published every few months, they said.

After they graduate next year, they hope to either continue publishing the magazine themselves or hand the operation off to other students, Browne said.

"We'll do it until everyone gets bored with it, and then we'll change it up, but I don't see that happening really soon," she said.

Browne and Hudson are trying to raise money to print future issues so they can keep the magazine free, they said.

"We're both willing to pay some out of our pockets, too," Browne said. "It's a work of passion, a labor of love. It's not really anything to be making money off of."

For more information on Gutter Pulp, or to submit work, visit gutterpulp.blogspot.com or e-mail gutterpulp@gmail.com.

Hannah Guzik is a reporter at the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.