April 5, 2015
Issue 20; 2014
Review by Nathaniel Leies, Susquehanna University, Class of 2018
The York Review is a student-run literary magazine featuring works of students at York College. The magazine includes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, and art.
The York Review is a student-facilitated, student-produced magazine funded by the English and Humanities Department at York College of Pennsylvania. The York Review’s student editors are responsible for the overwhelming task of just about everything. From soliciting submissions, to delivering the magazine, and every step in between, even coordinating readings of original student poetry – these editors do it all. Originally intended only for English and Humanities majors, The York Review has recently opened submissions to all students at YCP. Submissions encompass short stories, poetry, one-act plays, essays, short memoirs, digital photography, paintings, and sculptures, in addition to more experimental expression of art.
Volume no. 20 is a collection of the grotesque. “This publication is filled with lifelong fears that college students are facing every day,” writes Managing Editor, Vanessa Robins. As such, the door of the haunted house is swung shut with a deafening collision, and we are stranded in the darkness to walk hand-in-hand with fear throughout this publication.
In “Ad Astra” (a story, in my opinion, reminiscent of the Grateful Dead cartoon, “The Hotel Mars”), Angela Glotfelter narrates an exquisitely depicted memory about love-laced guilt that silently strangles a young man’s dreams of exploring outer space: “There’s something infectious about space. The way those violet nebulas spread in the void, pricked with light …These engines hum with a kind of old, cosmic energy, baby, they told me when they built the ships…My father lay under white sheets in a white bed in a white room… ‘You need to stop making excuses,’ he said. ‘When are you gonna see those stars?’” We feel the young man’s love transcending his body, joining the celestial forms of his dreams. And yet, with the juxtaposition of the cold white hospital room in which his father slowly dies, we feel his sadness leaving his beloved parents, and his fear of returning home to find they are dead.
In “You Were My Son,” Nathanial Barnes ushers us into the harrowing madness of being hated by every single person one could imagine. Barnes writes, “Eventually, it became too unsafe for him to return to school. The administrators tried to intervene after the first few bruises appeared, but after the broken ribs, enough was enough. But it wasn’t enough. They found his house. Rocks through windows. Spray painted vulgarities on the garage door. It was never enough for them. His parents’ pride vanished. They tried to fake it as they still loved him. But they were no longer happy.” The ominous “they” persecute a helpless boy, destroying the final vestiges of his safety. He is cornered, pathetic; worst of all, his own parents think so too, and do nothing.
While as a reader I felt the most power in this magazine’s prose pieces, there is much to applaud in its poetry. Through the stanzas we encounter fear, manifested in many ways. Some poems paint fear as the emptiness of abusive relationships. Ashley McManus articulates in her poem “Body,” “Those who like it use it./ Sex, sex, sex,/ All the time/ can there ever be anything more?” Here she suggests that perhaps there is nothing else but the cycles in which we live.
Other poems manifest fear through nothing more terrifying than the face of death. In Jess Velarde’s “Pale Yellow House,” we hear a lament about the time when we will no longer have those we hold close: “She tells him how school is going./ Trying to remember and always knowing,/ he soon won’t be there to ask.” These chilling words beg us to pause and to reevaluate what we prioritize.
A prominent design of this magazine is its use of somber and grotesque artwork, which literally stares back at us through different masks, such as Dillon Samuelson’s “Attention and Outrage,” in which a face bursts from a heap of nondescript newspaper headlines and columns. Or, as in Jennifer Junggust’s “Nightmare,” our favorite Gotham lunatic grins with such menace we are made aware of the seemingly all-too-weak confines of the page. In addition to the repeating motif of faces, other artwork contains impressionistic images. One by William Lewis depicts a large-lensed camera with ripples emanating from the crack in a mirage of smeared colors. Other images contain a single subject, sometimes marooned and decrepit, like the old, rusted, industrial bridge in “Delaware” by Chelsea Bock.
The editors of The York Review had style in mind when they compiled this magazine. The bold and blockish titles catch the eye, and while the similarly bold font of the body of the text may at first appear a little rigid, I found myself completely comfortable reading this magazine. Easily navigable, this magazine does not need to persuade the reader; instead, you pick it up and you explore. When I first encountered this publication, I was drawn by its cover, designed by Stephen Leik, with art by Alexandra Cloupsy. My eyes latched onto its mishmash of colors and human-like forms, gathered in a crowd, as though walking together. I knew then I wanted to read this publication.
The York Review is an addictive and enticing read. The pieces are funny, sad, frightening, unnerving, witty, eclectic, but most importantly, they are real. They draw from the emotions common to all of us, and show us the darker side of human life. You will be tempted to read not only for the thrill of what dark twists and turns lie ahead, but for what these pieces say to you when the world is otherwise grim and silent.