If you don’t think you’ll cross paths with another Binghamton University student after graduation, think again.
In 2014, Fox Frazier-Foley submitted her new book of poetry, “Exodus in X Minor,” as a submission to Sundress Publications’ annual Chapbook Competition, a contest that awards writers with the chance to be published by Sundress.
Nine years before, she graduated from Binghamton with an English degree, mostly focusing on creative writing. She thought she left Vestal Parkway for good until she returned in 2012, fell in love, stayed for a year, and was inspired to write “Exodus in X Minor.” And her connection with Binghamton didn’t stop there.
Erin Elizabeth Smith is the founder and managing editor of Sundress Publications, which publishes books and collections and hosts online literary journals. Ten years ago, she graduated from Binghamton as an English major with a creative writing focus as well. In 2014, she emailed Frazier-Foley with the news that she was the 2014 winner of the Chapbook Competition.
It wasn’t until then that they put two and two together: They both went to BU at the same time and didn’t even know it.
“It was so funny to see that she’d actually been at Binghamton some of the same years that I had,” Smith wrote in an email. “Though we never ran in the same crowd despite both being poetry majors.”
Frazier-Foley spent her undergraduate days studying with English professors like Liz Rosenberg and Maria Mazziotti Gillan. She cites the two of them as being influential and encouraging in developing her voice as a writer.
The most important thing Frazier-Foley learned as an undergrad writer was that asking questions always leads to constructive dialogue.
“I feel like that’s a gradual lesson for most people; I know it was for me,” Frazier-Foley wrote. “I’m very glad I learned it — I like the person I am so much better for being able to approach the world and other people in that way.”
Meanwhile, Smith’s undergraduate experience was shaped by Binghamton itself.
“I learned a love of a sense of place, a love for the hills and water, and the dazzling sense of season,” Smith said. “I still write Binghamton poems despite not having been back since 2005.”
After Binghamton, Frazier-Foley and Smith continued to go their separate ways, only to be reminded of their alma maters.
Frazier-Foley went on to start a literary press called Ricochet Editions and work on poetry blogs such as THEthe Poetry blog with BU lecturer Joe Weil and alumnus Micah Towery.
Smith, on the other hand, also runs the Sundress Academy for the Arts in Knoxville, Tennessee, an artists’ residency on a 45-acre farm, and teaches creative writing at the University of Tennessee.
Despite being so far from Binghamton, Smith continues to find other former Bearcats.
“Since leaving BU, I’ve found that so many writers have some sort of Binghamton connection — whether through their own degree work, attending a conference, or having a loved one who attended,” Smith wrote. “Apparently all roads lead to Binghamton.”
And they do.
Going forward, these Binghamton alumni still plan on working together. In 2016, Sundress Publications will release “Political Punch,” an anthology of contemporary American political poetry Frazier-Foley introduced as a series on the THEthe Poetry blog last fall.
“It helps to know that there is an institution made by awesome, intelligent, creative people who see the value in what I’m trying to do,” Frazier-Foley said. “It helps me honor my own voice and my own approach, especially when I feel drawn to write about difficult or controversial subject matter.”
Going forward, Frazier-Foley and Smith will continue molding their literary careers with the things they learned when they were sitting in the seats of Lecture Hall and the Fine Arts Building.
While Foley-Frazier wants to publish more poetry, teach creative writing and appropriately open a “Twilight-Zone”-themed bar, Smith is looking to focus on what’s in front of her now.
“Right now, my energies are focused on the press and the residency,” Smith said. “Eventually I’d like to be able to make Sundress my full time occupation, but in the meanwhile, I love teaching at UT and working with students who remind me so much of the students I used to be in workshops with back at BU.”