Prairie Margins (Bowling Green State University)
Reviewed by Renata Erickson
Publishing since 1963, Prairie Margins is a national undergraduate literary magazine created to help young writers reach new horizons. Based in Bowling Green State University, Ohio, Prairie Margins promotes undergraduate writing nationwide by providing a venue through which student writers (including non-traditional students) can be introduced to an audience beyond their campus communities.
The cover art of Prairie Margins 2017 edition speaks to the literary magazine’s goal of allowing student writers and artists to enter the world of literary journals. Created by Judah Kania, a junior at Bowling Green State University, the “Wild Blue Yonder” attributes itself to the artist’s studies in visual storytelling. A ripple of space and ocean opens to a red biplane, presumably symbolizing an emerging storyteller (or any other kind of explorer), and from the horizon below a flock of birds flies into the landscape. There is hope in this piece and the excitement of new territory. And perhaps the ripples can be seen as the momentum new writers and artists can gain as they push forward with their craft.
A unique aspect of Prairie Margins is the content of the short writer and artist biographies that accompany each piece. While not unusual for literary journals, these biographies seemed to be more personal, a welcomed symptom of contributors not having many credits to their name yet. They not only include educational achievements and past works, but aspirations, pastimes, and pets. These biographies take their mission a step further by not only providing a platform for upcoming writers and artists, but allowing readers and potential publishers to know the writers and artists beyond their work.
A short prose piece that encompasses the idea of reaching new heights and exploration as suggested in the cover art is Morgan Condict’s “Lifted Upward.” As the items on a person that allows them to brand themselves float away, such as clothing, car keys, and wallet contents, the characters in his story find themselves also rising into the sky. Upon returning to earth some quickly collect their items while others revel in the “clouds on [their] skin. . . [and] walk off to rebuild, recollect, and recover.” Condict is a fourth year English major at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA, where he was the first runner-up in the 2016 Academy of American Poets contest. His biography continues to speak of his wife and his hope to one day earn a living by cartwheeling professionally through infinite space. This bit of information not only gives a quick sketch of who Condict is, but alludes directly to his piece, bringing it into further contemplation.
Other prose and poetry throughout the journal touch on the struggle to find a safe place, society’s mechanical consumption, the heartbreak over death, and the apology after abuse, among other topics. The art in the journal includes pieces depicting experimental art, psychological fiction, graphic design, photography, and animation.
Prairie Margins accepts submissions of unpublished poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, art, and photography. Their website, prairiemargins.com, includes archives of past magazines, useful links for writers, and an essay on the history of the journal, along with a submissions link. Current activity can be followed on the Prairie Margins blog.