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ISSUE 121 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/25/2008

Publications offer creative outlet

By Kelin Loe
Opinion Editor

Friday, April 25, 2008

Who isn't a fan of "The Dead Poets Society?" And what group of self-acknowledged English nerds hasn't tried to form their own poetry club at some point? What poetry geek hasn't set up a scavenger hunt through tomes of Shakespeare, Milton, Sidney, Pope, Bradstreet, Whitman, Dickenson and Kerouac? Readers, much like the English major itself, tend to focus their literary attention on the anthologized and the acclaimed.

But before these writers saw their name in print, before they even had ink stains and a quill callus, they wrote. Back when they were fresh to the desk, their work had to go somewhere. Lucky for St. Olaf student writers, our campus has two publications that celebrate new talent.

The Quarry and The Reed both originated on the St. Olaf campus. The Quarry is a creative arts magazine, accepting poetry, prose and visual art submissions. The Reed is a journal of existentialism, accepting essays, poetry and prose on the topic. Both St. Olaf publications accept only undergraduate student work.

While The Quarry only publishes pieces from our campus, The Reed accepts pieces from all over. "Every January, we send out a call to papers, inviting students to submit," co-editor David Moon '08 explained. At campuses across the country, professors interested in existentialism receive the call to pass it along to their students. And generally, The Reed gets more submissions from other colleges than they do from St. Olaf.

When I heard the phrase "journal of existentialism," I felt my eyes glaze over with the white blur of the ivory tower. What level of pedant does a student need to reach before they decide to submit to a journal of academic philosophy? Fortunately, The Reed doesn't pander to elitist ideology. They give existentialism a liberal definition. "We define 'existentialism' broadly. We'll accept submissions dealing with issues of the human condition or canonic existentialism themes, like alienation, paradox or loss of faith," Moon said.

Having this wider definition helps bring in submissions beyond the philosophical essay. The Reed accepts submissions in poetry and prose, as well. After receiving submissions in April, the challenge becomes balancing the different styles of expression. Once individual submissions are selected, The Reed editors build the journal by juxtaposing essay with poems or prose that address the same issue.

My initial impression of the phrase "journal of existentialism" led me to a misinterpretation of The Reed's intentions. The Reed started ten years ago to give attention to a pocket of philosophical thinking defenestrated by the ivory tower. Existentialism has been written off from time to time as more of a pop philosophy rather than one warranting senior seminars. The Quarry also seeks to give voice to the overlooked. "The Quarry is a magazine devoted to St. Olaf students," Executive Editor Brett Defries said. Only St. Olaf students can be published in The Quarry. This way, publication opportunities are reserved for St. Olaf writers that haven't had the opportunity to get published elsewhere.

Generally, The Quarry calls for submissions in February with a deadline before spring break. Like The Reed, The Quarry is run by students. Break gives editors time to review their respective genre.

Submissions to The Quarry can be poetry, prose or visual art. The Quarry doesn't look for a connecting theme, so editors judge submissions by merit only. "We publish the best work that we get," Defries said. They receive a fair amount -- 60 to 70 submissions -- half or less of which they can accept.

After selections have been made, editors paste the layout together. Because pieces make it to the page based only on artistic value, The Quarry also faces a balancing issue. If a piece of visual art matches the mood of a poem or prose piece, the pieces may go side-by-side. Editors balance the emotions of the selected pieces, assembling the issue with an eye for art.

Both publications are free and come out in May, so keep your eyes open. This year, The Reed is publishing a tenth anniversary double issue edition. Come the end of spring semester, put down the canon and pick up the work of your peers! Maybe 20 years from now your daughter will read your fellow alum's name bannered across a Norton anthology.

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