12th Street’s Riggio Reflections (Part 1)

Editor-in-chief Ricky Tucker at the 12th Street Online Launch, 2013. Picture courtesy of managing editor Ashawnta Jackson.

12th Street in an award-winning literary journal that is run by students in New School’s Riggio Honors Program: Writing and Democracy. As this school year ends our staff wanted to reflect on our experiences within the program.

Ricky Tucker (Editor-in-Chief): A feeling of the world closing in on me moved me from my private Methodist college in North Carolina to Boston. Too many deaths, family responsibilities, and an overwhelming sense of my own otherness had me pushed into an unbearable corner where I couldn’t see past my own hand. I ran away to see what else there was.

In Bean Town I found a city unanimously decided on the color beige and the numbing of other relentless desires. That worked for me for about a decade before my internal compass pointed to broader destinations. I hatched another escape plan that this time was less about running away from a thing and more about heading towards my bliss, writing. That led me to an even grander world address: New York City, The New School, and the Riggio Program.

Solely on a theoretical level, Riggio has redefined my world by making me consider myself within it. Practicing that constant back and forth negotiation between the artist and culture has saved me from the old hat and writerly self-induced exile I had committed myself to long ago.

But by worldly measure, my universe as a human has expanded, with the countless mentors, friends, colleagues, ideas, support, and opportunities the Riggio Program has granted me. And now, as I prepare to leave The New School to pursue my masters in the UK, I’ll keep in mind my ultimate keepsake from my Riggio experience—the world is actually small, and so, my effects on it can be profound. It is mine, after all.


Naima Asjad (Assistant Online Editor): The Riggio Honors Program stands as a manifestation of the omnipresent relation between the literary and the political. It represents the significance and need of the written word for the critique as well as the preservation of society. The program not only hones the writing skills of the students who are a part of it, but also enables them to grow and experiment with their individual abilities and ideas. Personally, it has both provided me with a tool to learn and sharpen my writing skills and a path to exposure to the larger, literary community. It is the program’s focus on the small student body that has allowed me and fellow students to work independently, contributing to the community as well as to the larger society. The Riggio Program is essential for conveying the importance and necessity of writing to the next generation of writers, artists, academics, activists, and leaders—in essence, to all citizens, present and future.


Charlotte Slivka (Non-fiction Editor): Honestly, I don’t think I would have recognized myself as a writer in the world had it not been for the Riggio Honors Program. Writing was something other people did and a lot better then me. It took being in a community of like-minded individuals to convince me otherwise. When I sit around the table in the goldfish bowl room 513 of 66 west 12th St with my fellow 12th Street staffers, I can see I have a lot in common with these people. Not just in letters, but the common quirks that we share. I don’t have to explain myself when I speak in metaphor; I am understood. I feel safe from judgment because I know my peers and my teachers will take an extra beat to hear me. This is why I write: to get to the heart of meaning. All of us in Riggio write to get to some kind of truth, and it’s not easy but through the empathy and support of my peers and this program, it’s possible.


Anna J. Witiuk (Poetry Editor) The history of America can be a big ol’ pill to swallow. And within American folk music, the debate over Bob Dylan’s role has been a heated one. There are many provocative and sensitive topics to wade through in Greil Marcus’ course, “Old Weird America” of which many students may have a hard time seeing the truth, but Greil reveals these histories with frankness and humor. He insists that we arrive at each topic with the honesty of its lived, documented experience, and with the bizarreness of its lore. Through his teaching we come to realize how much Bob Dylan’s folkloric character is a symbol for America’s story and for our larger human story.

Until I took the course I was in a bit of a protest of Bob Dylan, and of the frequent assertions made by both my peers and scholars of his genius. So imagine my surprise when tears began rolling down my cheeks during a presented audio of Dylan singing his song, “With God On Our Side.” Throughout the rest of the course I began to understand Dylan’s power of poetry and presentation. It was a great gift Greil Marcus gave me: that as long as you are willing to sit and listen to the story (being ready to serve yourself a fat slice of Humble Pie), grace will always find you.


Issue 7 of 12th Street will be launched on April 30th at Barnes and Noble Union Square. Join us for readings by Elizabeth Gaffney, David Grand, and contributers. For information go to our facebook page or click here.