Review by emily crawford (susquehanna university ’15) and nicole redinski (susquehanna university ’13)
The Allegheny Review is one of America’s first nationwide literary magazines devoted to publishing undergraduate works of poetry and prose. Published annually out of Allegheny College, the journal’s twenty-ninth volume showcases characters who are travelers of many different kinds and how they find themselves in the end. Michael Winn expresses this best in his prose piece, “Yesterday is a Stupid Name for a Song,” when he writes, “Migration is the only way we can know where home is.” This theme throughout the issue reveals how important movement is in defining a person.
In Julie Woods’s poem, “Germany,” the speaker struggles with her experience in a foreign country. She conveys her difficulties through her everyday experiences, starting with a trip to a bakery to order some coffee, during which she muses: “It comes to me in an orange mug / without a handle. / Fitting, I think, / that I have nothing to hold on to.” The speaker continues to express this feeling of detachment from her surroundings, until she finds an old postcard addressed but never sent. She adds her own address and sends it home, thinking, “When I return to the States, / I hope to meet myself there.”
Without a comfortable feeling of “home,” characters are often left wandering, as in “Buzz Gold” by Theodosia Henney. In this story, Miss Lilith, the neighborhood beekeeper, “up and left one night with her bees, though the hive boxes and her house were just as they have always been.” After a peeping tom claimed to have seen “Miss Lilith’s thick shaping, standing in the middle of her hive boxes without any clothes on,” rumors spread throughout the town. Without a sense of companionship in her community, she feels the need to move in hope of finding somewhere she might belong.
Even movement in spirituality is highlighted, like in Amy Frake’s prose piece, “Jerusalem Is.” The narrator discusses how people and their beliefs enhance a place’s significance. She articulates this by saying, “Jerusalem is what it takes to get here […] once you enter, some part of you can never truly leave.” In our reading, this shows a sense of comfort and the necessity of feeling spiritually connected to a place for those who need something to believe in, and especially of finding a place that is greater than a house or a single physical structure.
This volume of The Allegheny Review strives to create a kind of home for its characters, its authors, and its readers. The pieces therein mostly lean toward the theme of finding oneself and depict the journey that it takes to get there. The sense of maintaining individuality, even in a strong community, seems effortless and fluid, pulling the readers into the worlds that the authors have created and guiding us along on our own quests to find ourselves.