Woodcrest, Cabrini College
review by amanda chase (susquehanna university ’14) and mike coakley (susquehanna university ’12)
“The leaves were turning orange and brown like girls who fall asleep in tanning beds,” begins Christopher Zobel’s “Longing for Change,” published in Cabrini College’s 2010 edition of Woodcrest. Zobel goes on to offer a commentary on the harshness of nature, before turning to the narrator’s somewhat comical dissatisfaction with his own age and gut. With a resigned yet playful tone, he succeeds in tapping into feelings that everyone has experienced. This is the nature of Woodcrest: a diverse display of the whimsical and the tragic, longing and satisfaction, sadness and happiness. It is remarkable how well the different writers emerge from their own personas, allowing their experiences to color the texts but not hijacking them. The predominate bright blue, shown in circles on the title pages and stripes on nearly every page, demonstrates this human contradiction of emotion and experience: the color makes us feel whimsical and optimistic, in contrast to the oftentimes dark subject matter.
Zobel wonderfully captures the appeal of illicit fantasies which are impossible to play out but hypnotic nonetheless. Who has not sat at their job or in class daydreaming? The speaker, a banker, longs to press the “robbery-in-progress button,” which “stared at [him], called to [him], tempted [him] like some kind of gray, plastic siren.” It is a regular part of his everyday environment, but he finds it so alluring because it represents a means to interrupt the norm.
Additionally, an interesting collection of poetry is “Renga,” a Japanese-style set of collaborative poetry written by Shannon Fandler and Sean Ryan. Six haikus tell of a thunderstorm, with speakers alternating between each one. In demonstrating the nature of the storm, Fandler and Ryan also express the nature of their friendship – their close bond as writers. Their words of change, renewal, and truth illuminate important concepts for readers. The poem itself also attests to friendship. Each stanza flows into the next, with no conscious notice of the writer’s switching back and forth. Writing, often viewed as an isolated, individual practice, reveals itself as a collaborative effort.
Anthony Casazza’s photograph on page 66 is a wonderful example of what this magazine has to offer. Even while the subject is in the brightest streetlight, he has obscured himself in darkness. The mark of a good photograph is its ambiguity and its layers of meaning, and we find that here: some might see the road leading off into the distance as a sort of obscured personal future, while others might view the darkness and the light as life’s best and worst times. Again, we discover Woodcrest and the works within its pages to be contradictory and paradoxical, but in the best way – in the way that reflects a contradictory and paradoxical existence.