spring 2011 issuereview by alison enzinna (susquehanna university ’13) and stephanie heinz (susquehanna university ’15)
The spring 2011 issue of Northeastern University’s Spectrum immediately hooks the reader on the cover image’s iron gate, over which a dilapidated statue of Snow White bends. The striking contrast of this photograph against a placid lake scene speaks to the variety of styles and subjects in the works within the journal. Covering topics from personal battles with food to questioning the love and affection of a close family member, Spectrum attempts to understand where creativity fits in. The magazine’s staff lays out a mission to recapture interest and show that even the minutest detail can allude to a far deeper conflict, a battle of wills.
The magazine contains a wide variety of prose, poetry, and photographs, which together create a contrast of imagery and ideas. The selections are often brief, but the author of “Recitative,” Lauren Ditullio, uses this brevity to condense her characters’ lives into the most important moments. Recounting the narrator’s relationship with her husband from when they first meet to long after he has died, Ditullio captures their personalities in crucial lines such as: “He barks orders, and if my eyes flash fire back at him (and they did) it is only because he lights it inside of me.” The story progresses through the narrator’s anxiety, over her husband’s former love, which is felt strongest after his death. Despite the lifetime of significant moments shared with her husband, she, like the reader, is left with lingering doubts of his affection.
On nearly every page, the photographs are a constant presence emphasizing the magazine’s attention to particular, telling moments. “Lake Mist,” a photo by Andy Carlson, depicts a woman enjoying the breeze despite the mist that has fallen over the lake. The image creates a sense of serenity within us. The muted colors of the background draw our eyes to the only brightly colored elements in the photo: a sea foam green flower in the woman’s red hair. The image captures a brief moment of complete ease.
While artists in this magazine make their work appear effortless, Sid Phadnis, author of “0.7MM,” shows a struggle with the deep desire to create and an ache at having nothing for inspiration. With lines like, “If I were a slab of moldable mud / I’d sit on the axis and spin in place / the unformed otter on the pottery wheel,” Phadnis pushes the reader through the speaker’s desperation until he finds solace. It may not come from sudden enlightenment, but in searching the author has created his own inspiration. This poem succeeds in moving past its pressures the same way the magazine has. Instead of searching for a place, the Spectrum staff and contributors have created one. As they recapture the interest of readers with works built from the ordinary, these authors find fresh approaches to familiar subjects.