Glass Mountain (Review)
Reviewed by Emily Criswell
Susquehanna University ‘22
The cover of the University of Houston’s undergraduate literary magazine Glass Mountain’s Fall 2020 issue presents a surrealist collage titled “La Confiture des Rêves” by French collagist Nelly Sanchez. This visual work captures the vibrant feminine form amongst objects of domesticity against a dark background; truly, this is a representation of that which Donald Barthelme’s short story “Glass Mountain” symbolizes – “the achievement of what [seems] impossible.” Surely, the same may be said of Sanchez’s collage that portrays a woman who telekinetically suspends a glass orb above her head.
The act of conquering implausibility is a consistent theme throughout the various works of visual art, prose, and poetry in this edition. Glass Mountain was conceived in 2006, beginning as a dream led by a team of undergraduate creative writing students at UH to celebrate the exploration of artistic curiosity. This magazine “is aimed at inspiring creativity, encouraging growth within a craft, and teaching undergraduate students the process of publishing – and getting published – with a can-do attitude.”
It is worth noting that this most recent issue has been dedicated in memory of those who have been lost during the global pandemic, as well as to “all who have given and continue to give their time and energy fighting this pandemic, and to those who still strive to create during these turbulent times.”
At the forefront of this Fall 2020 edition are three pieces hailed as the Robertson Prize winners: “The Conservatory – Middle Grade Fiction” by Sarah Han Kuo, “Violence is the Grammar” by Yasmin Boakye, and “Want” by Stephanie Lane Sutton.
“Swoosh. A balmy breeze. Then up and away. She was flying, the wind whistling and combing her hair as she ascended. Dulcet tones of one-hundred harps in arpeggiated glissando filled the sky.” In her story, “The Conservatory – Middle Grade Fiction,” author Sarah Han Kuo crafts stunning imagery that mirrors the equally vivid imagination of a young girl named Mina. As we explore the parallels between Mina’s fantastical dreamworld and her relationship with Halmoni, it is difficult not to feel as if you too are experiencing it all alongside her. Han Kuo explores the unspoken theme of loneliness in a way that we as readers can truly resonate with.
Stephanie Lane Sutton’s poem, “Want,” is a deeply profound piece that addresses the greed of human nature. Her work expresses that no matter our desires, nothing is seemingly enough to satiate them; all we want is more, and something better than what we already have. In the end, Sutton leaves us with the haunting reminder that our possessions ultimately amount to nothing because we will all die one day and become “dust: a confetti in the dirt, then gone.”
Then Yasmin Boakye’s eye-opening “Violence is the Grammar” leaves us with a necessary reflection on racial injustice, the degrees of sexual assault, and what it means to be a woman of color in America. “I’m a black woman in a dark black body, and so I tell them what they want to hear about safety necessitates, lying about what makes me feel safe,” she recounts. “They are asking about the kind of white violence that will befall their black children no matter where they go, violence that doesn’t touch a purse or leave a mark.” Hers is an experience that will never not be relevant, unless society changes for the better. Of all the wonderful pieces included in this issue of Glass Mountain, “Violence is the Grammar” stands out as reason enough to peruse this literary magazine.
Glass Mountain shares a brilliant literary gift with its readers, one that could not have been possible if not for the work of its editors or the talents of its writers and artists. I find this Fall 2020 impression to be one that reverberates the value of the impossible – conquerable or not— although surely, we should all strive to overcome human materialism and systemic racism.