Reviewed by Mitchell Roshannon, Susquehanna University, Class of 2019
Kalliope is a student run literary journal on the University Park campus which publishes the writing and artwork of Penn State students. The cover image of the 2018 issue is “House in the Woods” by Elise Warfield, an image of a house seen through foliage during what I take to be the very earliest light of day.
The journal is lovingly designed and the writing partitioned into three parts: poetry, fiction, and nonfiction respectively; each offering very different but very talented work. A piece from the poetry section, titled “Black Groove” by Andrea Brown, still sits with me. I am reminded of my own lost loved ones when I read, “The chair beside me is empty / It’s where you’d sit,” a perfect allusion to someone lost but yearned for. This poem reaches at one of the core ideas of what it is to be human, our ability to mourn and reflect on that which has passed; our ability to adapt to change yet still wish that things had stayed the same, or at least wish to see things as they were once more. Another poem, “For My Boys, Ben and Jerry” by Sarah Petri I read as being about societal expectations. I read about a woman dealing with how she wants to feel about what she eats compared to what others think she should feel. I scream “Heck yeah!” in response to her conclusion that the suggested serving size is “whatever the hell I want”.
Even if I were to try I could not forget “Dear Mrs. Nair” by Nakul Grover, the story of Mr. Nair and his reflections on his wife. I don’t want to spoil it for any who wish to read the piece themselves, but know that this story is astoundingly and beautifully painful, a roller coaster ride of emotions and realizations about the thoughts of a fading man about his life and family.
In nonfiction, “A Family Man” by M.M. Jennings cannot be recommended highly enough. A piece about family and aging written with such honesty of emotion needs to be applauded. What is important about this piece is the relatability of the situation. At least for now, there is not a single one of us who will not grow old and eventually die, though few have the strength to write about what it is like to watch someone you love move through this process and know the inevitable outcome. I look forward to seeing where Jennings goes in the future.
In addition, the artwork in Kalliope is wonderful. One piece that stood out to me with its vaguely Fahrenheit 451 vibes is titled “Let It Burn Until the Image Fades Away” by Taylor Bielecki which shows two masked firefighters watching a mountainside in flames. That this artwork transitions the journal into the creative nonfiction section seems fitting.
All of the pieces in Kalliope are worthy of being read and are greatly deserving of an audience. I hope that the few pieces I’ve spotlighted here will encourage others to find a copy to read and view the work of the talented writers and artists inside.