October 16, 2003

Literary Magazines Thrive on Campus

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Epoch, Cornell’s graduate literary magazine, garners national attention and claims the likes of Thomas Pynchon and Joyce Carol Oates as former writers. Yet despite — or quite possibly because — of this legacy, Cornell’s undergraduate literary scene thrives. Boasting almost half a dozen magazines, each committed to fulfilling a unique niche in Cornell’s literary life, the various editors, scribes and copyists of these publications work long hours to bring Cornell the best of itself.

Rainy Day, Cornell’s oldest surviving undergraduate literary magazine, is released biannually at the start of every semester. About 800 copies of the magazine are distributed throughout the Cornell campus. Work, however, begins long before, as the staff of approximately 25 canvasses the campus to encourage contributors, handing out flyers and chalking up the sidewalk.

“Getting submissions is the biggest part,” explains current editor Christopher Kang ’04. “If in a week I get twenty to thirty submissions, I’m really happy.” Although these submissions come primarily from the student body, Rainy Day has happily printed stories and poetry from parents, alumni and even a dining facilities janitor.

But of the four to five hundred submissions the magazine receives annually, only about twenty works are printed. A partial reason for the selectivity is Rainy Day’s emphasis on longer narratives, which Kang feels are often excluded from other publications.

“We represent other sides of the Cornell literary scene, especially longer narratives and poems,” he told The Sun. Choosing to focus only on the written word, Rainy Day has no photography or art aside from the cover.

Also focusing on the written word is relative newcomer [plug] poetry magazine. Last year, Arnold Seong ’04 set out with a staff of six to “start a magazine because we didn’t feel the magazines on campus were inclusive enough … we wanted to include all genres of poetry.”

The biannual magazine prints 300 copies a semester, each issue filled with poems of varying length and style. With this sharp focus on poetry, [plug] has grown to a staff of sixteen and into a robust program that involves much more than just the printed page.

“The magazine will no longer be the most important part of [plug],” Seong explains. “Our main goal is for people to just read and share poetry.”

To these ends, [plug] has been passing out poetry on Ho Plaza, hosting readings and poetry slams and sponsoring guest lectures and speakers such as Douglas Mao. The organization also boasts a robust website that will host spoken poetry that can be downloaded and enjoyed. “We try to show people all the different things poetry is,” Seong said. “We try to expand their definition of it.”

Forword, funded by the Cornell Women’s Resource Center, also works at expanding definitions. Silvi Alcivar ’04 explains that Forword “gives voice to women and women’s issues. It’s been called the feminist magazine, but it’s really open to the entire Cornell community, directed to address women’s issues.”

The magazine started in 1995 as a newsletter entitled Athena, which provided a forum for the Women’s Resource Center. It gradually grew into a full-fledged literary magazine and today prints 400 copies annually. The magazine also hosts a showcase in late April where art, poetry, and live readings are presented.

The Ethos yearbook focuses on chronicling the minority experience at Cornell through poetry, art and photography. “The goal of the yearbook was and is to depict the efforts, struggles and various accomplishments of traditionally underrepresented ethnic groups at Cornell,” explained Editor Richetta Coelho ’04. Recently, the yearbook moved into a magazine format, in order to increase readership and student participation.

This move has brought Ethos to “be more than just a picture book, but finally something that people were interested in reading once they got their copy and being involved in once they read it,” Coelho added. Established in 1976, the staff of 25 puts out 250 copies, which are sold at the Office of Minority Affairs at the end of the year.

Finally, Lackadaisical: A Shortage of Flowers, is another newcomer. Founded in 2001, it has a lighter take in a literary world that Editor Becca Epstein ’04 admits is “inspiring and intimidating,” especially to those outside the English major.

“A lot of talented writers and artists on campus … don’t get to express themselves creatively in their field of study. So we try to reach out to students of all majors.” Lackadaisical continues to grow, currently having about 15 members on staff, including many veterans who continue to improve the quality of content and layout. The biannual publication prints about 750 copies, which are distributed freely all over campus.

Another major development in Cornell’s literary magazine scene is the reintroduction of Temple of Zeus readings, coordinated by Prof. Lamar Herrin, English, which have been influential in bringing RainyDays, [plug] and Forword together as they help plan and stage the weekly readings.

The publications all sponsor readers and help get the word out about the event. “We didn’t really communicate with the other publications before,” admits Kang. “But the readings have really opened up a dialog between the publications.” He added that, because each publication has a specific focus, there’s more cooperation then competition: “There’s something for everyone.”

Archived article by Michael Morisy