ARTS & CULTURE
By Pamir Kiciman
Alex Benedict is an undergraduate student at UNC-CH majoring in English and Comparative Literature. He is also the founder of between the highway presswhich publishes mainly poetry.
Benedict’s press is a passion project sparked by his time working as a clerk and storekeeper at Han-Dee Hugo’s Exxon gas station in Carrboro.
According to his website, it was during this time that he engaged with “the expelled, exploited and ignored” who entered the store, as well as those he met and observed along the North Carolina Highway 54.
Because Benoît focuses on people facing food insecurity, the press also has a social mission. After production costs, half of the proceeds go towards buying food, maintaining food drives and redistributing food locally.
“Why are people so desperate in this country that they beg between our highways? How could we ignore this? Benoît asked in an email exchange with The local journalist. “Walking past someone is easy enough, but walking down the highway forces encounters.”
Very early on, Benoît took the initiative to spray paint “some filing cabinets and place them at a few bus stops in Carrboro: mark the top for food and the bottom for literature”.
These are still in place and a few more have been added.
“As I placed these community pantries, I felt the need to fill them, so I started producing the first receipts and tried to raise money to buy food,” Benedict explained.
“I launched between the highway in November 2021, posting three receipts on the 26th, but it had been simmering since late 2019,” Benedict said.
The press between the highways publishes collections of poetry in a very original format.
Benoit uses receipt paper to make “receipt books”. This is the same paper receipt you receive after every in-store purchase.
In addition, the long distance press is a profitable market for authors. Half of the proceeds after publication expenses go to the authors, and the other half is used to support Carboro’s own TABLEwhich has been feeding local children since 2008, and local efforts to Food not bombs.
Originally from the Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio, where he plans to return after graduation – with perhaps some time to travel and live in North America – Benedict said: “I will continue the press as long that I can. Although publishing is a labor of love, I aim for it to be financially stable; it’s about to happen for the current release cycle.
Benoît is also a minor in German, and his major includes a concentration in publishing and digital publishing. However, he said, “Officially, I say I study poetry.”
“I am mainly interested in poetry, but only because it is associated with opening up the possibilities of language,” said Benedict XVI. HolderinGerman poet and philosopher.
“In many workshops I’ve attended, there’s this idea of the isolated poem of the writer and the reader. For me, communication requires a meeting,” he added. “I want receipts to be encounters where the writer freely shares their writing with the reader and where the reader can do anything with what the writer shares.”
Receipt books are thermally printed, which is a heat transfer method that does not require ink. For this, a Brother TD-2120N The label printer is used to print what Benedict designs, as well as the Brother P-touch Editor software.
The software is free. The paper received is cheap. Once printed in long folds of receipts, the entire book is placed in what is called a “cash control envelope” used by gas stations to deposit cash in their safes. These are also inexpensive.
“Receipts are easily damaged, destroyed or altered. For example, the paper can be torn, discolored by excessive light, accidentally folded or made damp,” Benedict said. “The noticeable impermanence of receipts shows how ultimately all art is impermanent.”
Benedict chose Cleveland, Ohio, poet and Dalevy counterculture icon as the subject of his undergraduate thesis.
“I will find out how dalevy engaged with Buddhist practice in his poetry. Reading Dalevy inspired me to develop my Buddhist practice and engage my writing in this practice,” Benedict said.
“Beyond Dalevy’s writing, publishing practices, and community engagement, I wonder how I function between the highway and how I interact with our community.”
Over the past two years, Benedict XVI has become a practitioner of Jodo Shu Buddhism, “which emphasizes the practice of Nembutsu: a remembrance of Buddha in the form of contemplation and enunciation of the Buddha of infinite light and life. , Amida.”
Benoît also teaches at UNC Writing Center. “I love helping people communicate,” he said. “I’m grateful to be able to work at the UNC Writing Center. There, I learned to engage writers as complete, rather than correcting their writing according to certain values.
With an ethic of service informed by his Buddhist practice, Benedict hopes to “build trust in our community and empower people to embrace freedom.”
He admits he can’t always stock the community pantries he has set up. “I had many neighbors who brought me food and books,” Benedict said. “When I receive large donations from neighbors or finish a posting cycle with some profit, I then share food.”
Operating on a shoestring budget and with self-funded start-up costs, betweenthehighway press is only made possible through the substantial efforts of Benedict. He is the only publisher because he cannot pay another. Over the summer he spent six hours a day developing the ingenious website which includes a wiki as a resource for artists and publishers. With a view to next June and a new publishing cycle, it provides for 50 hours of work with each author, editing, word processing of books and printing of new receipt books.
“So far, I have personally funded press materials, technology and community cabinets. In total, I think I spent about $500 over the course of a year for the first release cycle,” Benedict said.
Although he did not cover the production costs of the undergraduate, the authors were still paid and Benoît made food donations.
“One of the authors of the receipt, Alexandre Ferrère, told me that he saw my project as a continuation of Dalevy’s edition,” Benedict noted. “Someone I consider a mentor, cries cheek, told me he believed in my courage. Both of those comments keep me going.
He also received compliments on the printing with receipts, positive comments on the writing range and encouragement to continue the publishers directory.
“What I do is limited, but maybe I can reach a handful of people and connect a few more people,” Benedict concluded. He draws encouragement from seeing community cupboards being emptied and filled, someone writing a note about how they were able to eat, or TABLE noting how many children they were able to feed each week.