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Santa Clara Review (Review)

Amber Watkin

Susquehanna University


The Santa Clara Review, a literary magazine run entirely by undergraduate students attending Santa Clara University, has a long history. Formerly known as both The Owl and The Redwood, the magazine was founded in 1869 and is one of the longest running Western U.S. literary publications. In the beginning, The Owl printed monthly issues that were dedicated to mental improvement. These early editions were named after the idea of owls studying literature at night. The publication stopped in 1875 but was reborn again with the same ideals in 1903 as The Redwood. Over the years the material that it printed shifted and developed until eventually in 1988 when the final name change was made, marking the start of the Santa Clara Review. Currently, the magazine publishes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and visual art. New editions are printed twice a year in February and May respectively. The publication proclaims itself as dedicated to “the pursuit of truth, honesty, and social responsibility within the literary arts.”

Volume 109.2 of the Santa Clara Review begins with work from the featured poet, John Sibley Williams. Williams’ three poems delve into themes of death and life. “Exoskeleton” is filled with haunting language, ending on the tragic image of a casket built on a person’s back and likened to shelter. Beyond Williams’ work to start off this volume, which sets a high bar for everything to follow, the magazine presents a compelling mix of visual art and written work. It is clear that careful thought was put into the pairing of certain works of art and the writing they either precede or follow. “The Apportionment,” a gorgeous oil painting by Alex Hutton that features birds on the beach, is directly followed by “Sea Change,” a poem by Will Cordeiro that begins with the image of seagulls. Likewise, Lily Anna Erb’s “I Am Never Quiet, I Mean Silent” features the lines “I don’t aim/I never miss.” On the next page of the magazine a stunning black and white photograph, taken by Henry Lara and entitled “Story of America,” centers on a woman with her fingers in the shape of a gun aimed at the camera.

The first fiction piece featured in this issue, “Deadweight” by Claudia Schatz, tells the touching story of a young boy who refuses to learn how to shoot and hides his father’s guns after his mother dies in a gun-related incident. The prose in this piece is strong and Schatz jumps expertly between past and present to tell an exceptionally moving story and explore the complexities of fear and familial relationships. It all culminates in the heartbreaking dialogue from Paul, the main character: “I’m a kid. Why would I ever want to kill some stupid deer, or

wolf, or even a bird? Don’t you ever think

someone misses them when they’re shot dead?” The narrative manages to perfectly include the weight of the mother’s life and death through the other characters even though she is never physically present.

Emily Cassia’s nonfiction piece “Somewhere in Between” is a standout read. In short-form prose that moves seamlessly through a timeline spanning from 2015 to the present, Cassia tells the story of an addiction and guilt after a man she once helped inject dies, leading to her feeling responsible for murdering him. The piece is packed with ripe emotion and pleasant-to-read prose, presenting an irresistible development through remorse and nightmares to a place of relief and self-acceptance. The refusal throughout the story to outright explain the situation until the very last paragraph works strongly in its favor, keeping readers interested from the first line until the very last.

The most eye-catching spread in this volume of the Santa Clara Review is, without a doubt, Kapi Michalska’s two art pieces—one of which serves as the cover for the magazine—paired together. The colors in these pieces remain bold even though they are relatively muted, and Michalska clearly has a phenomenal understanding of how they interact with each other. They craft a perfect balance between warm and cold tones, mingling together in the most alluring way possible. “No Smoking” makes excellent use of form, depicting a half-sketched half-completed woman with her legs bent, conveying the aura of a ballerina stretching before a dance class. “It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses an Eye,” the cover piece, makes eye contact with viewers and invites them to look inside. It makes sense that this work of art would be chosen to represent the entire magazine—Volume 109.2 of the Santa Clara Review looks its readers right in the eye in the best way possible, leaving them wanting more. The magazine is highly successful in all that it sets out to accomplish, each piece included even better than the last.


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