The Mochila Review (Review)
Reviewed by Candela Rivero, Anthony Brown, Devyn Le, Zohra Qazi, Bonny Tran, and Veronica Silva, University of Central Florida
The Mochila Review is a student based literary journal supported by the Department of English and Modern Languages and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Missouri Western State University. It publishes poetry, short stories, and creative nonfiction from undergraduate students across the United States. The cover of The Mochila Review 2020 issue is created by Rebecca Foley, an associate professor at Missouri Western State University. It features a vintage photograph hanging by a puppet string—suggesting that we are the puppeteers to our own works.
Although Mochila isn’t outrightly themed, much of the content in its twenty-second issue centers around the silence of humanity, the loneliness of growing older, and the bridges between yesterday and today—or rather the past and present of literary tradition, and thus the human condition. Many of the pieces within this magazine call back to previous literary traditions weaved so effortlessly and impactfully into the contemporary contexts of the work.
There is a large variety of work within Mochila’s Spring 2020 issue, ranging anywhere between prose and poetry. We found the organization of these genres to be well dispersed throughout, allowing for readers to have a diverse reading experience as they move from complex poems into vivid short stories and essays. One of the pieces that stands out among the rest is Lisa Compo’s poem “Drought Deciduous.” This poem has beautiful color-based imagery that allows the reader to see and feel: “The little blue flowers that spread at their feet exist/ to bring out the orange.” It also contains outstanding rhythmic devices such as the alliterative “desert doesn’t die” and the assonant “blooms in moon.”
Mochila’s assortment of poetry features memorable, sometimes shocking images. In “Floating” by Ronald Phillip Williams, the speaker starts with the lines, “A pickup truck could rush its headlights into my spine / today and I wouldn’t feel any different.” The skillful lineation and syntax works to create tension and surprise the reader. The same surprising confessional tone is seen in Ramzy Abukhader’s “Devolving,” which observes its speaker turning into the very creature it has spent the whole poem examining: “...as I descend to my four legs, wondering what might happen if the wolf comes back while I am alone.” Another favorite was “HIIT” by Cecilia Savala, which beautifully showcases the efficiency of poetic language; Savala’s diction is purposeful and delightful to read in the way it does a number of things at once. Subtle notes of musicality carry this poem to its end.
Another piece that sits with us is the essay “Free! Net worth Calculator” by Jeffery Martin in which the narrator befriends a drug dealer, a commentary on social class. The essay is rife with self-reflection, such as “I mean, you can calculate your net worth, sure, but how much are you worth to a stranger with a gun to your head?” This is a heavy realization, and it leaves a lasting impression. Another powerful aspect of this piece was its strong characterization. Throughout, the narrator develops an unnamed friend. One of the first impressions the reader gets of the narrator is his recklessness: “and not only could Andrew drive, but he also drove a BMW that he’d get up to 100 if you asked. But Andrew did these things purely for social survival.” This is later emphasized when he texts the same drug dealer who pointed a gun at them asking whether the gun was real. Martin’s “Free! Net worth Calculator” is a gripping story told with a unique voice. It’s clear that both the poetry and prose in Mochila hit the reader viscerally and muse on the human condition, all of which is skillfully woven with contemporary techniques.
This diverse issue tackle themes which many are reluctant to explore and discuss, opening up a conversation between the writer and the reader. Its works ask what it means to be human through intense and profound imagery and difficult-to-swallow moments. The issue, although devoid of inside art, is full of the color and life of language and storytelling. The Mochila Review continues to break down the barriers and walls of the unspoken, stirring readers thoughtfully and deeply.