Some college literary magazines exist primarily to publish the scribblings of a group of friends. I edited — OK, perpetrated — a couple of them back in the day. Then there are those with higher goals. SCOPE, published by the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, is in its 15th year (go to www.siumed.edu/oec/SCOPE/index.htm to see all issues) and accepts work from the community as well as students, faculty, and alumni. Topics may be general or related to health care. Of course, it's the medical that fascinates: Doctors peer at us patients so intently — what are they seeing? How do they feel about us bags of flesh and fluid?
Jan Presley's poem "You Speak of Med School Cadavers" treads the line between life and death and finding the tear-stained humor of mortality. Bad poetry clunks and thuds. Good verse pleases. Great works twist your heart around in your body and change your eyes so they never again see in quite the same way. My face was thoroughly wet by the time I finished reading this poem.
In SCOPE, doctors grieve over patients, pets, and even idealism lost
(as in Dr. Marc Tumerman's "Detachment"). In
"Upsurge," Amber May celebrates birth from a baby's point
of view. "All Hallow's Eve," a prose piece by Fawn
Hoener, describes a costume party and dance in the mental ward. She
finishes with "The Activities Director is either oblivious or
inspired. I can't decide."
Springfield College-Benedictine University and WUIS/WIPA's new Quiddity International Literary Journal has high aspirations, and its premiere issue bodes well for achieving a global reach. At 169 perfect-bound pages, it's a hefty presence. Editor Joanna Beth Tweedy offers interviews in the first issue with such heavyweights as Illinois poet laureate Kevin Stein and Nigerian author J.O.J. Nwachukwu-Agbada. The half-dozen black-and-white photographs are by Jim Hill, who has worked with Ansel Adams. Contributor bios range from first-ever publication to more than 300, and the list leans to MFAs, academics, and multiple-award winners.
For me, the juicy part is Quiddity's first-Wednesday-of-the-month radio programs, with themes such as wellness, war, and the truth behind historical figures. Tweedy, the host, leads conversations with writers, then introduces the readings of various works by their authors. This brings the print up from the page and into the ear, adding a wonderfully human dimension. Missed them? No problem — you can listen to past shows, beginning with May 2008, at www.wuis.org/Quiddity/ and also hear authors read at www.sci.edu/quiddity/issue01-1.html. The journal appears twice a year, and Issue 1.2 will be Abraham Lincoln's "Better Angels." Submissions for that issue are being accepted until Aug. 8.
Essays and fiction are good, but I've got to agree with Jasper Fforde, who wrote in the Thursday Next series that "poetry heads straight for the limbic system. It's the crack cocaine of the literary world." Both SCOPE and Quiddity provide a quite a rush!
Lola L. Lucas is the author of At Home in the Park: Loving a Neighborhood Back to Life, about Springfield in general and Enos Park in particular. Her poetry has appeared in Watermarks,
Vintage Visions, Post Mortem Musings,
The Alchemist Review, and Illinois Times.