Lit Mag Channels Apocalyptic Anxiety of Our Age
Redivider is the literary magazine out of the graduate program in Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College, and like many student-run journals, it isn’t too stuffy. On the other hand, it isn’t particularly avant-garde. There are some experimental pieces here, but fiction, nonfiction, and poetry generally stay in their lanes, and most are traditionally crafted.
Issue 14.1 of Redivider has a Waiting for Godot vibe. The cover is a photo of a playground where a cut-out man sits on a swing with a baby on his lap. This image fittingly introduces an issue that often centers around an absent God/protector.
A few pieces are about the literal apocalypse. I’m a child of the 90s Bible Belt these pieces describe, so they felt especially important to me.
One example is “Language in the Latter Days” by Jessica Wilbanks, the Beacon Street Prize Winner for nonfiction. Wilbanks’ essay beautifully weaves the story of Wittgenstein’s journey from atheist to almost-mystic with the story of the author’s journey from Pentecostal youth to skeptical adult. Eric Schlich's story “Night Thieves” focuses on the world of the daughter of a second-rate youth pastor at a small town church. This story brilliantly uses the rapture as a backdrop while the characters wait for each other to show up with rapturous love that never fully arrives. Candace Williams' “In Kingdom Hall” is a funny and heart-stabbing poem about a doubtful kid going through the motions of church to save a parent from “the End of Days.”
The other Beacon Street Prize Winners are also fantastic – a poem called “Vitrine” by Melissa Stein and a story called “Coming of Age” by Ryan J. Burden. Both involve wrestling with unreachable fathers/families as well as startling, memorable language. “Vitrine” is filled with beautiful lines like: “I suppose I’m in a meadow/cupping ears to bees, or stepping through/a forest, peeling shadows from trees.” “Coming of Age” is a story of hope and beauty as filtered through the trauma of a mentally disabled child.
Some other standout poems and stories from the issue include “On Distance” by Paige Lewis, a poem-plea to someone (who sounds like a small-minded lover) to be more transcendent. Then there is the strange, fascinating “After Image,” a meta story/philosophical meditation by Afsheen Farhadi about a strained relationship between neighbors after an accident.
“All the Girls in the Sunday House” by Tegan Nia Swanson was so good and so upsetting – a story about kids so deeply and so unjustly doomed that no magic can save them. This is a story that makes you want to go out and help someone.
The issue ends fittingly with Maggie Smith’s "What I Carried,” a lovely, sad, and hopeful litany about fear. (Not a litany against fear – Dune reference anyone?)
Amid the dark, unsettling stories and poems, there was a painfully funny story about dating difficulties called “People We Learned to Love in Books” by Matthew Grolemund. This one cracked me up. I loved the dark pieces, but I would have loved a few more funny pieces that still fit with the themes of the issue.
I could go on – there are many potent pieces in this issue. I was not sure how much the photography in this issue added to the content (with the important exception of the tone-setting pieces by Gina Mudge). Also, when taken as a whole, the prose felt a bit stronger than the poetry in this issue.
Overall, this issue is rich and interesting for its diverse array of voices and experiences. It also manages to uniquely express some of the apocalyptic anxiety in the writing community during the 2016 presidential campaign.