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Icebox (Review)

Reviewed by Haley Dittbrenner


Susquehanna University

Ice Box is the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) undergraduate literary magazine. The first thing I noticed about these magazines was their compact, colorful, and exceptional nature. Each edition is filled with full-color photos and vibrant writing in a tradition that goes back decades. Ice Box started off as a campus zine in 2001, before morphing into a traditional literary journal. The magazine is produced by students in ENGL 475: Practicum in Literary Publishing and only accepts submissions from UAF students.

Each edition is 8 by 5 ½ inches, making for a read that is easy to carry on the go. The books are perfect-bound and feature a matte, full color cover. The pieces are not separated by genre; you can read Ibrahim Mustapha’s poem Hashtags followed by Jasper, a nonfiction piece by Evangeline Unger (volume 17).

There is no central theme in each edition—select pieces in volume 18 are about girl-deer hybrids, life by the rivers of Alaska, and dragon slaying. The contributors are very aware of their location; Tehya McLeod’s piece Northern Voyager is a vibrant acrylic painting of the Northern Lights, while Alliyah Alikataq Nay describes traditional Native Alaskan dance in dual pieces.

The poems in Ice Box are as memorable as they are skillfully written. Love and Joy, by Michael Martins in volume 18, takes on the words of Robert Frost and repurposes them. Complete with rhyme, sensory details, and reference to the Garden of Eden, Love and Joy celebrates the green and gray hues of nature. The meaning itself is open-ended, allowing the reader to take what they will from this short, excellent poem.

Another piece that stood out was A Candle for Caballero Stone by Lucy Evans (volume 18). This prose piece followed a young man looking for work as a cherry picker. The writing engaged both the senses and the mind as the reader took in talking birds, bright red cherries, and the flickering of white candle flame. The five-page short felt like a vignette, or a brief glimpse of the protagonist’s life, adding a layer of intimacy within the words.

In volume 17 is Stokvis by Rohan Weeden. This piece was the 2020 winner of the Farthest North Fiction Contest, a writing competition open to students at UAF. Stokvis—the Dutch term for stockfish—tells the story of a fisherman named Kubo after his ship capsized. Weeden takes the reader through Kubo’s memories, all the way back to when he first learned how to fry stokvis as a child. The fish itself is a strong thread that ties the piece together: it is there when the ship stands, when it falls, and when Kubo finds himself wading. The characters themselves also feel lifelike, like there is more behind them than the page they appear on. Even minor characters—Kubo's family and the ship’s crew—appear as people you could meet in our world.

These praises are not exclusive to the works highlighted above. Ice Box is a literary journal of colors and radiance, each page offering something unique to the reader. The pieces in editions 17 and 18 stand out in their diversity of content, imaginativeness, and literary skill. Ice Box continues to break barriers one word after another, after another.


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