The Sequoya Review (Review)
Reviewed By Hannah Mackey,
Susquehanna University, Class of 2023
The Sequoya Review is an undergraduate literary journal at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a long history at the university, undergoing name changes after its first publication in 1965 before settling on Sequoya Review in the fall of 1972. The name “Sequoya” refers to the Cherokee after the same name, who taught a combination of written and oral Cherokee tradition, which led to the newspaper publication of the Cherokee Phoenix, featuring both English and Cherokee articles. He has remained a significant figure in Tennessee and for the magazine for several decades now. The works published by the Sequoya Review reflect his hard work and immense dedication to written work.
The journal accepts works from current Chattanooga students and primarily publishes poetry, prose, art, and photography. In their most recent issue on their website from 2016, they present a wonderful array of creative pieces from students that demonstrate their push for authentic and compelling writing. Poetry such as “We Are Fine” by Alexandra McKay, which intertwines Spanish between moments of reassurance and a nostalgic, familial tone, and “Slant Sabbath” by David Haynes, an intense criticism of religion and the church as an institution, are strong pieces due to their language and the emotion attached to every single line. One poem in particular that really stood out to me was “The Dissection of Emilio” by Abdiel Vallejo, a stream-of-consciousness poem that contains beautifully brutal imagery of a person being torn apart. At first it seems quite grim, but paired with the absurd imagery of the speaker saying, “Grind his bones to dust and ship them to Manhattan where a hipster will confuse them for cocaine and snort them up his nose,” it creates a more humorous tone with a darker approach. It opposes the flowery language normally associated with poetry and stretches beyond traditional poetic restraints, as do many of the poems presented in this issue.
“The Mundane Art of Creation” by Sara Serkownek starts off the fiction section in the 2016 issue, and I immediately became engrossed in this piece as it explores the unnamed narrator’s attempts to create their own universe in a board game and the repercussions for doing so. The voice of the protagonist feels familiar and the passage of time is done in a creative and clever way, and the plot, while simple at first glance, is engaging throughout the piece’s progression. I want to remain more ambiguous about the story’s contents so as to not spoil any important moments, but it is a very contained fiction piece that I will be thinking about for a long time.
The nonfiction pieces, such as “On Brown-Bagged Beer and Our Swift Return to Dust” by Robert Marshall, are interesting and reflective, with many not being more than a few pages long. This work is relatively brief, but conveys so much sensory detail and retrospection within the container the story is told from. The story details a simple conversation about a trip to a monastery between two friends in Chattanooga during a rainstorm, and although it once again seems straightforward, there is a lot of meaning present within the structure and language of the piece. Both of the characters come to life in a way that makes nonfiction such an admirable way of storytelling.
I have never been one for art in literary magazines, as I can never figure out if I’m analyzing and taking it in the right way; however, the art that the Sequoya Review publishes invokes many emotions upon studying them. There are very few paintings and drawings included in the issue, which I found puzzling, but they are evocative and intentional in their usage of color, space, and subject matter. I especially felt inspired by Orphaned Objects by Hailey Grogan, which left me with a sense of warmth and hopefulness from the bright orange hexagonal figure atop white petals in deep contrast with the black space it occupies.
The Sequoya Review is successful in highlighting impactful stories that offer significant and interesting appreciations and criticisms concerning the world we live in. I recommend anyone, especially writers and editors, to look through the magazine at the stories that remain prominent and demonstrate the persistent and passionate work done by the magazine.