Rev Up Your Literary Mojo
Mojo is a new on-line literary journal, with its first issue published in January of 2012. Upon first encountering the journal, one is struck by the extraordinary cover, a portrait of a creature offered by the artist Heiko Muller. Several of his depictions are included with the Andrew Bales' interview with the artist. The work is described by the interviewer as "…a balance of scrawl and detail, of the playful and vibrant, with the dark and haunting."
This description is also quite fitting for this inaugural issue of Mojo. The journal includes several playful pieces, primarily poems, but also some rather dark - even haunting stories. For example, the story "Compartments" takes you on a short journey through the activities within a few days at a hotel, with a dying man inhabiting one of the rooms. The reader begins to hurry through the story, wondering with increasing concern what is happening (or has happened) to this patron. This sense of apprehension and anticipation is conveyed very delicately, yet energetically by the author Stephanie Wilson, a student at the University of Pittsburgh.
Darker still is "Welcome to Omni-Mart", a piece by Dale Bridges – an established writer and journalist now living in Colorado. Futuristic in nature, this story may leave one wondering, or reflecting on what it reminds one of - what comes to mind in associations to the specifics, as well as the general, in this story. There is an Orwellian quality to the story (for control and oppression as in 1984), but the main character's apparent struggle to keep his soul intact is one that is not satisfactorily resolved. The reader may wish for a different ending, something not so reminiscent of the loss of individual identity, as in Brave New World, or the loss and longing of 1984, with its themes of fear and betrayal – the latter themes evident in "Welcome to Omni-Mart". Nevertheless, the story, though a bit disquieting, is one that draws you in quite eagerly.
One poem included in this collection strikes the same chord. Theadora Siranian's "Persephone" brings to mind the 'queen of the shades' that carries out the 'curses of men upon the souls of the dead.' While the poem plays on the dynamics, the rather haunting dynamics and qualities of death and decay, there are threads of eroticism that seem blended within the fabric - the rhythms and movements of the body and the kissing – knowing of the occurrence of death approaching. The poem finishes with the following description:
In the morning I dreamt it into life:
Two pairs of eyes and the delicate
Impression of bruised wrists
lying next to me on the sheet.
In quite a different direction, several poems and one of the stories are pure fun - in a thoughtful and engaging way. Lobsters not holding grudges and conversations with space aliens are imaginative and well constructed pieces that grab one's attention and interest. "Secrets of the Sea", a poem by James Grindley, details some fascinating aspects in the mental life of lobsters. Grindley published his first book, Icon, in 2008 – a fictional work described as unusual and dark, written as three ‘interlocked’ novels.
Marit Ericson's "Message To The Aliens From This Dude, Isaac" portrays in poem form a conversation with the aliens, invitational in nature. The message is one of being unfriendly to those things - those beings - that we don’t understand.
A fascinating conversation with Tim O'Brien (author of several books and winner of the National Book Award, among other prizes), is captured well by Jamie Wilson. A focus of this conversation is on imagination, with Mr. O'Brien commenting that imagination is "a way of getting ourselves through things." He is speaking here of the writing of his books detailing experiences in VietNam - his character's experiences, as well as his character's imaginations. This is of course reminiscent of Joan Didion's ideas about 'telling ourselves stories in order to live' - and how we need our fantasy - what she refers to as our phantasmagoria to make sense of it all. Psychoanalysts have dealt with this phenomenon since Freud's early explorations with the unconscious and the 'talking cure', while writers and poets have done so for even longer. The O'Brien conversation also describes the process of writing and the place of imagination in the formation of the story.
Mojo’s publication follows the fifty year history of Mikrokosmos, the print journal of the Wichita State University's MFA program. Mojo wants to publish emerging writers as well as established veteran writers - looking for diversity in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction – and to do so to a more global audience – in the on-line format. The editors open this first journal with a positive message, inviting writers' humor and emotion - as these are conveyed in one’s stories and poems. The guidelines are easily accessible in the opening pages of the journal - and indeed, the format is interesting as one scrolls through the journal – offered in an effective and efficient design. Awards are given out for both fiction and poetry, and Mikrokosmos will consider all work that is selected for the on-line journal for inclusion in the annual print edition.
Authors included in this first journal include students, recognized or established authors, artists and teachers. While there is a selection of writing that may be described as quirky in nature, the conventional also finds its place inMojo. A few of the pieces included seem experimental, yet the stories and the poems appear straightforward enough to draw one in quite convincingly. Mojo is not only a good read, but an enjoyable experience - fun, thoughtful, and provocative.