February 12, 2016
Review by E.J. Schwartz, Susquehanna University, Class of 2018
The Mochila Review is an annual publication supported by the English and Modern Languages Department at Missouri Western State University. They accept submissions from undergraduate students at other institutions year-round.
The Mochila Review’s spring 2015 issue, filled mostly with poetry and a few choice short stories, ends up reading like a continuous journey created by the editors, each piece bringing us deeper into the story. The cover, a mixture of colored charcoals and blended lines, depicts the face of a woman, a pouted lip, a darkened eye that narrows on the reader, daring us to open the cover and lose ourselves in work that its editor, Marianne Kunkel, claims will give “the same chills, the same laughs, and the same wows” that can be found with established authors.
The magazine tells the stories of women, whose minds and bodies are, in the words of author Eran E. Eads, “best told by men.” In “Ode to That Man on 12th and P Who Simply Must Heckle Every Woman Who Walks Past,” we can hear the, “Miss Thang?!?” and feel the hair rise on the backs of our arms. We drift into the mind of the narrator, listening to the dream of a beautiful wedding. When we come to it’s catastrophic end, writer Morgan Boyle confronts us with the reality of our world. She tells us to hide our daughters, our sisters, and let them know their skirts are “a bit too short.” The poem proclaims we blame women for the looks they get, for their legs that go “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall the way up,” because it is easier than to confront the men who dominate society.
Rhea Ramakrishnan’s “My Mother Went to Houston for the Weekend,” a short prose poem that continues to show us this world, gives us a pivotal moment in time, a daughter finding her father at the television watching “women—flesh curled into flesh like skins of fruits rotting.” The past tense puts a stamp on this memory, and we are forced to look at moments in our own lives that changed us for the better or worse. We grab hold of the “railing or some unseen, forbidden thing,” and wonder at what age we forget each woman on the “television screen reflected onto the window,” is a beloved daughter or sister, aunt or mother.
But this issue is not entirely consumed by bleak admissions. In “I, beholder,” it is a gradual process, a combination of the harsh conditions of our society, entwined with the hope that we can find, “beauty in a jar of pickle juice,…in a red carnation…the tongue of a stranger.”
It is in the eyes of author Gracie Kenny, that we see the aspiration of a young woman coming of age, “wondering about the boys and girls and everything-else-in-between,” just as we once did. She discovers that she there is beauty in everything, even in not being beautiful. That quiet optimism lingers with us, and it is here that we begin to see the average, the quiet, the overlooked, as extraordinary.