Slippery Elm, University of Findlay
review by shawn everest-ortiz, susquehanna university, class of 2015
Slippery Elm is a student-run magazine published by the University of Findlay. The journal is committed to promoting the best fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and visual art being created today.
Slippery Elm is a student-run magazine that publishes a wide range of genres. It is “a journal committed to promoting the best fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and visual art being created today.” Since many of the authors featured in this magazine already have any number of books published (although one need not be a professional to be published in the magazine), the stakes are high: there is a $15 entry fee for those who wish to submit, and author-judges award $1000 for the best works in prose and poetry (2013’s judges were Mary Biddinger for poetry and Robert James Russell for prose). Each issue costs $10.
The front cover of Slippery Elm shows the lower half of a person kneeling in front of a body of water with the reflection on the water in the foreground. The image is heavily suggestive of depth and a multitude of meanings while at the same time giving no hints at, or restraints on, the writing inside; the reader can only expect to be amazed by the skills and the insights that the writers bring to bear.
In his short story, “At the Facultad de Anatomia,” Charles Schneider observes the way that scientists’ treatment of cadavers has changed from one point in time to the next, comparing his own experience seeing deformed fetuses and handling a corpse to a painting by Rembrandt that shows a Guild of Surgeons treating the corpse of a hanged criminal with significantly greater solemnity. The combination of observed detail, reflection on his personal reactions, and his thoughts on the meaning of this business, make the story compelling.
Out of the poetry, two standouts are Aimee Noel’s “Swift-Water Departure” and Benjamin Busch’s “Lit.” Noel’s narrator delineates the conditions under which her ashes are to be scattered; she does not wish to be let loose upon still water, because “still water makes for a long goodbye,” and in advocating for movement she refers to a great series of images, beautifully seeing her motif through to achieve poignancy. “Lit” deals more in abstraction and personification, moving in clusters of alliteration, as in rhythmic lines like, “never imprinting the impasse of clear glass, a myth passed in the smack and buzz that cracks are made this way.” At the same time, he shows a touching interpretation of the motions and motives of flies moving always and fervently toward the nearest light. The ability of these authors to explore topics that are so widely varied in tone, and to always expose or create an affecting meaning within these topics, makes the magazine well worth the read.