The Quarry 2017 Issue
St. Olaf College Literary & Fine Arts Magazine
Review by Sarah Bluett
The front cover of the 2017 issue of The Quarry immediately captures one’s attention into its almost cotton candy-like world. St. Olaf’s 5th year emerging artist, Evan Weselmann, is also featured in the issue with another piece called “Portrait of an Unknown Person 2” which has similar serpentine lines as the cover. Other artists’ work can be found in the issue including a few ceramic works—one done by another 5th year emerging artist, Cailan Carpenter, and also a copper colored pinch pot made by Valleri Rami. The diversity of students’ submissions, whether it is ceramic, graphic or visual art shows that the magazine is dedicated to the inclusion of both literary works and the fine arts. As a result, the magazine itself is in a digestible form with shorter works like poems intermixed with colored photos and readable text. Overall, Alexandra Madsen (2017-2018 Executive Editor) and the current board of editors looks for art that is “well crafted in nature, provocative, and aesthetically pleasing”.
The literary and fine arts magazine is published annually and the past three issues are archived on their website. As a whole, the website presence is strong because it is not only designed well with a clean-cut aesthetic, but it also is easy to navigate. One important piece of information I failed to locate was the mission statement; in fact, it was nowhere to be found. However, in the editor’s note, Josh Torkelson (Executive Editor 2016-2017) states, “This magazine is witness to and a testimony of the students of St. Olaf College 2016-2017…what our editors present to you here is a limited window into the lives of these people, in this place, at this time.” This quote further elucidates the unique quality of most undergraduate publications because it is place-based.
Madsen further explains her aims for the next issue which follows along with the past statements of The Quarry. She says, “The Quarry works to create a space within the St. Olaf College community that is playful, engages in conversations, and reflective. It does not reflect everyone’s experience on the St. Olaf Campus, but it offers a limited window into the lives of these people, in this place, at this time.” Although there was no formal mission statement, I think the same line stated by Torkelson and Madsen could potentially represent the vision for St. Olaf’s literary magazine.
In 2016, the editors wrote an explanatory opening to its readers about how each issue represents the change and/or growth of people, beliefs and ideas overall. Because the place is a constant, the collection of issues since the beginning in 1923 characterizes the growth of the people on the campus itself. As I flipped through the pages of the most recent issue I tried to find a theme with the overall work, and I noticed there was a sense of time passing whether it be through seasons, lifespan or change. One piece in particular, written by Paulo Gladney, immediately caught my eye. In the poem “Time”, the author reflects on a meaningful relationship with another person which he describes in the past tense while still trying to preserve the present as he states, “one day, passed, and so I tricked you with poems of today, telling you that they were alive, I persuaded you to believe that they would perpetually live in the present…”. The audience becomes aware of his deception and now he reveals he is alone and no longer with the person when he ends the poem with “this was past tense and so were you”.
The next piece I thought spoke to this theme was the work done by Jacob West called “For a Mother”. As the author slowly discloses, the mother referred to in the title “left us softer than the sweetest kiss” and this idea of life and death portrays the time continuum similar to the previous poem I mentioned. The writer reflects on the empty vegetable garden the mother will no longer tend to and how other forms of life like the roses will be left to prune despite the death of another organism/person.
According to the current Executive Editor, Alexandra Madsen, The Quarry is an integral part of the St. Olaf Community and the arts because “[they] believe art has a deep and powerful ability to provoke thought, and create change in places that need it”.
Madsen shared in a short interview that the magazine is looking to expand the amount of issues that are published in a year. They work hard to market the organization and publication especially when it is time to accept submissions or for the magazine release. Their outreach involves a gallery showcase open to the public and they do tabling in front of the cafeteria and hand out free copies of the latest issue. When asked what the 2018 issue will emulate, Madsen replied,
“I hope we continue to put out content that is thought provoking and that hopefully we can incorporate more new media and performance into our work. We are working on getting a larger number of people who would do this however since it has been a traditionally physical publication it’s hard to move into new media.”
As an editor, this particular literary magazine offered a positive insight on the role an
undergraduate literary publication can have on a place in recording the differences and changes from year to year. A journal like this lends a voice to artists who exist in a tight-knit (yet welcoming) community and supports their works from a young age.
Visit The Quarry‘s website here.