Catfish Creek (Review)
Reviewed by Arin Lohr,
The cover on the tenth issue of Loras College's Catfish Creek is a colorful digital illustration featuring abstract shapes. This eye-catching collection of muted greens, reds, and blues reflects the contents within and their ability to compel and engage readers with the collection. This literary journal accepts submissions from undergraduate students across the country and compiles exceptional works of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.
Catfish Creek takes a unique approach in this magazine, breaking it into themed sections that create a more cohesive piece of reading. Rather than being separated into genres, works are separated into one of three sections: “Origins,” “Society,” and “Brokenness/Healing.” Though all of the work in this journal comes from different people around the US, this structure unites the work and allows for a smooth reading experience. This structure also encourages readers to explore different genres instead of only looking at their preferred genre of reading.
A nonfiction piece that caught my attention was “Welfare Mom” by Kait Burton. This short yet impactful essay illustrates a grocery store scene where a mother and her two kids are judged by other shoppers for having food stamps. This piece explores the stigma around welfare in our society and how hard it can be for a single mom to explain to her kids why they get weird looks at the store. The essay beautifully shifts from the perspective of a confused child to the perspective of a young adult looking back on their family’s struggles and understanding how much their mom deserved praise for keeping it together.
As someone who writes and greatly appreciates poetry, I was incredibly impressed with “The Truth About Suburbia” by Haley Grindle. This poem is written in three sections and travels through the story of growing up in a suburban area and what unique experiences it brings. I loved the imagery in the first section that alludes to the portrayal of towns like this in movies, and how “it is always summer.” The juxtaposition of feeling “both free and suffocated” perfectly describes the benefits of a small and close knit town while acknowledging how hard it is to break out of the small bubble that one grows up in. What touched me was the last line, which states that the speaker didn’t hate growing up in suburbia but “loved it like oxygen” despite all of their complaints and problems with the area.
Among the many great fiction pieces, “Man-Eater” by Kelsey Day Marlett caught my eye. Without checking, I almost assumed that this piece was one of nonfiction because of the details and images presented. Not only does this story of a teenage girl grapple with mental illness, sexuality, and class, but it also takes the simple image of lipstick and carries it beautifully through the narrative. This work juggles the difficulties of relationships while metally ill not only with romantic partners but with family and therapists as well within its roughly six pages. The scene that stuck out most to me was the one where the main character collects all of her lipsticks into a box and drives out to throw them all away, describing how she would “crush the plum [lipstick] into the pavement” and write messages to herself and her brain. I could see the image of messages scrawled across pavement in different colored lipsticks so easily.
This magazine didn’t feature visual artwork or photography other than the cover by Amber Krieg, but the vivid imagery and skilled writing more than made up for the lack of images on the page. From the supermarket scene where I heard the beeps of a checkout counter to the image of riding bikes through a suburban sunset, this journal felt rich with color and artwork without visual arts being included.
I hope that you feel inclined to read this journal and find pieces to connect to as well. This brilliant showcase of undergraduate work paired with a format that stands out from most undergraduate literary collections is without a doubt worth the read.