review by danielle boyd, susquehanna university, class of 2016
The Album is a print literary magazine from Hollins University. It features prose and poetry.
The cover of Hollins University’s The Album may lead the reader to believe that the magazine is just that: an album comprised of various literature fitted into fifty-five pages. However, once they delve into the context, it becomes apparent that The Album is not the type of magazine that believes in using a template or even has the capability of fitting into one. Each piece has a life of its own and breathes that life into the pages. The layout of the magazine moves with the pieces, some being printed sideways, others upside down.
The Album opens with a poem by Caitlin Hoerr entitled “Letter Four” that seems to give the reader an idea of the adventure that the magazine is about to take them on. The poem begins in a dream, where we meet an “I” trying to escape a “you.” However, by the end of the poem we realize that we have been taken to a very real place, standing next to the narrator as they speak of “the muddy waters where I’ve tried/ to drown you.” The poem is a preface to the journey the reader is about to experience as they continue through the magazine. The Album is not composed of abstract stories, but rather ones that are as real as the writer. These are pieces that cannot be contained inside a thought or even a page. As “Letter Four” explains: “If I conjure you too often/ it is because you rise/ from my hands like smoke and curl/ against the ceiling where I sleep.”
Mid-journey, the reader will find themselves at “The Descent,” a fiction piece crafted by Annie Mountcastle. It begins as two separate narratives: one where we are sitting next to the narrator’s grandfather and another where we find ourselves “at the bottom of the ocean, where there isn’t a drop of sunlight.” As the reader spirals deeper into this descent it becomes clear that the grandfather and the depths are not so different. When the narrator finds himself at the bottom of the ocean watching the alligators it is impossible not to feel his flashlight in your own hand.
Like the “you” in Hoerr’s “Letter Four,” many of the pieces strike the reader as a dream, something fascinating that we cannot help but become more invested in until we have taken the descent to the depths of the magazine. By the time the reader reaches the end, they will find themselves completely immersed, much like the narrator of “The Descent” – “just one explorer with a flashlight.” The pieces featured in The Album are not ones that could easily be contained in any mold. Both the pieces themselves and the design of the magazine reflect this uniqueness.