Thoughts On Ninth Letter Fall/Winter 2013-14 by Dan Kondzela

       The Fall 2013 issue of Ninth Letter is an interesting mix of the familiar and the alien. The magazine, which itself is always a striking mix of personable stories and inhuman artwork, strikes a particularly poignant tone in the eyeball covered installment.

        Situated near the beginning of the issue is an inviting look at the midwest through photographs of decaying neighborhoods and a calm story of a dying tradition. I understand the contradiction of the pairing of the words ‘inviting’, ‘decaying’, and ‘dying’ since if one were to search the words out in a dictionary they would find sharply contrasting definitions. Ninth Letter, however, defies the common assumption in this way. It’s not that viewing a photograph of a weather-stripped tree or rusted and busted pickup truck creates a sense of desire, but rather a sense of familiarity. The photographs show environments that people can link themselves to, either physically or emotionally.

        Situated amongst these photographs (with a great relevancy, I might add) is a story called “Turkey Detour” by Ceridwen Hall. The short non-fiction piece tells of how one individuals seasonal tradition changed over the course of half a lifetime. Small hints at unfamiliarity pepper the piece, such as getting lost on the way to the poultry processing plant or the early celebration of a holiday due to conflicting schedules. Each paragraph carries with it some sort of downtrodden description or saddening epithet and the resolution leaves a sense of bittersweet acceptance. The two pages here convey in writing what the photographs that surround it convey in visuals, something sad but not completely without its positives. A feeling that things aren’t great, but at least they’re still there.

        From this point on the magazine strays from its midwestern angle and is open to more variable interpretations. Acknowledging this, the remainder of the review will subject you to my personal interpretation.

These interpretations stem from the abstract artwork which punctuates the written work every few pages. The artwork, colored mostly red and blue to complement the 3D glasses provided with the issue, is often depicting something natural which has been altered in some way. An example of this is a mountain range surrounded by stamps of a similar mountain range, repetitious from the top of the page to the bottom. Also the face of a monkey which has been copied and shifted to cause a strange duplicate sensation. I feel as though these pieces of art are meant to contrast the generally human bent of the published works. For me, at the very least, it heightened the impact of the stories. It created a mountains and valleys feeling, where the depths some of the written works traveled to were made all the more noticeable by the sharp contrast of the bold and upfront nature of the artwork. The title pages of this issue are a good representation of this. Take for example the piece “Dispatches From The War” by Adam Peterson, a short and abstract fiction piece which is situated between two geometric title pages. The story reaches very deeply into longing and violence while being bookended by two inhuman and unrelatable blocks of color.

       The aforementioned primate’s face is used to complement a second story, a work of fiction this time, called “The Dilemma Olympics” by Robyn Joy Leff. The story focuses on the surfacing of a home video online and the repercussions it has amongst a single mothers family, as well as her own development. The video in question surfaces forgotten memories of a period during infancy, where the narrator’s father raised his children alongside a primate for the sake of an experiment. The experiment, as revealed later in the story, failed for rather frightening reasons. The story seems to have a running theme of human development, and asks the question ‘what is it that contributes to the way we turn out?’ The question, as well as the ensuing search for answers, as represented by the narrator’s unending curiosity, points out what I believe to be Ninth Letter’s main aesthetic, an examination of human nature.

        This mission seems to be made more prevalent in a third story, “Super Awesome Sexy Weekend” written by Colin Winnette. This story, situated near the tail end of the Fall 2014 issue, is truly over the top. It’s my belief that the editors chose to gradually introduce readers into the theme with more grounded stories such as “Turkey Detour” and “The Dilemma Olympics” placed in the earlier pages before exploring their  theme in more abstract ways near the end. The Winnette story places the narrator in a summer camp setting, with stereotypical drinking, sex, and general revelry associated with party culture. The story’s main conflict arises with the ominous disappearances and eventually gruesome murders of the campers. Granted, the premise presented is not one wholly original. It’s a story seen numerous times in countless horror movies. What makes the piece original is the over the top nature and its darker interpretation of the classic scary movie plotline.

        The madcap murder and gore, which eventually escalates to the blowing up of twenty plus campers at once, acts as almost a wink to the reader that the death of teenagers is not the focus or intent of the author. Instead, the violence serves as a vehicle for a story of overcoming difficulties and perseverance in the face of adversity. At one point in the story, after numerous arrows through heads and instances of suffocation, the campers begin to sit down and sink into mud. The narrator defies this and instead runs for the woods in an attempt to escape, something shown to clearly not work earlier in the story. This sense of necessity in the face of futility portrays a tangible sense of the humans will to live. The narrator acts because the narrator has to, and that’s that.

        These stories, as well as other works in the issue not discussed, seem to contribute to Ninth Letter’s overall mission of examining the multiple facets of the human condition. The published works in both this issue as well as the Spring 2015 issue offer insight into different lives of different people, from deplorable women-beaters to mysterious murder survivors. Each story and poem contributes to the readers overall knowledge of human life and the many forms it may take and increase their appreciation for the diversity in both actions and challenges taken and faced by those individuals. The magazine, in my view, is phenomenal. It doesn’t miss a beat between pages and succeeds in creating a sense of sadness with purpose. The stories within in the magazine teach the reader about the true nature of what makes us ‘us’, and while it’s not always pretty it at least always feel true. That, I believe, is the greatest strength of Ninth Letter, its ability to teach the individual holding the magazine about themselves, in a way. Maybe that’s granting a literary magazine too much credit.

The Walk By: Danelle Tylinski

He once again awoke to the sounds of the dead. They shuffled and groaned outside the barred-up windows of the broken down shack that was his shelter for the past two days. Everywhere he went the noises followed him like a never-ending lullaby, singing him to sleep with nightmares and waking him with death. The smell of putrid, rotting flesh was stronger this morning than it had been yesterday, a sure sign that the dead were congregating and that it was time to move on.

His pattern was two days: two days to walk, two days to rest; two days in the wild, two days with a roof, four days in constant peril. It always took them two days to find you; the third you were dead. His two days of walking would take him away from one danger and straight into another, as the dead were unavoidable, the only remaining constant in the world.

The shack he was currently vacating was about as run down as a roof and four walls could be. Its many broken windows were secured with random bits of furniture and shelving that someone else had seen fit to affix there, and the wooden floor boards peeled up at indiscriminate intervals. Mice, rats, moths and other creatures had taken to its nooks and crannies long ago and assisted in decomposing whatever bodies stumbled inside. The shack had the distinct smell of musk and rotten wood to it, but the only odor truly prevalent was the stench of death. The far corner held the putrefying, maggot ridden bodies of whatever unfortunate souls spent more than two nights here, and the long-since-dried pools of blood painted a dramatic picture of the monster that devoured them. It was a story he’d seen played out too many times to count, and the gory details had long since lost their effect on him.

An unlucky earlier attack had left him with a nasty limp, so the walking was painful and the progress slow, as he made his way from the dilapidated shack. He knew his leg should have been the death of him long ago, but so far in this journey his luck had held out. His slow movement meant he was quiet, and quiet meant he could skirt around the hoards of the decaying former-humans with more ease than his frightened counterparts. He had also learned to control his fear. He swore they could smell it.
The terrain was difficult crossing for a man with such a limp. The forest that should have been bursting in autumn beauty was instead infested with bodies. Flies oozed out of every surface and clung to him to the point that shrugging off the insufferable pests was no longer possible. Every few minutes he would come across another grisly scene: a half-eaten corpse, a legless torso crawling its way towards him, its eyes milky white, mouth salivating with hunger, or a man with a gun in his mouth, brain matter dripping slowly from the trees behind him. It smelled as if the whole world was rotting, baking in the ever constant heat of the unrelenting sun. The hopeful sound of rustling trees brought with it no fresh breeze, only the repugnant stench of the thousands rotting miles and miles away.

He was driven by an instinct that seemed impossible to suppress. His never-ending quest for untarnished food was only delayed by the discovery of a safe place to rest. He had carried on for years this way, going from place to place, searching for the signs of other human life that he never seemed to find, other than the bodies they left behind. It seemed as if he had been walking forever, never getting anywhere, as the bodies and the miles passed him by.

He heard them long before he smelled them, and he smelled them long before he saw them; A beautiful sight, a group of people, cooking a blood-red animal over an open fire. The smell of food wafted in his nostrils and his too long-starved belly and a deep lust for sustenance took over. A few women and children screamed with surprise as he lunged clumsily towards the fire and started ripping and devouring their meat, leaving only the animal untouched to burn over the open fire.

Comparison Review: Robert Giordano

As lovers of literature, we live in very perilous times. Instead of spending their time feasting their brains upon literature, people are frying them in the fiery pit known as the internet. However my brave fellow citizens of the literary world need not fear for the safety of their literary souls, for there is still one sanctuary left open, one beacon of hope for the weary poetic soul: The literary magazine. For centuries, these hallowed volumes of literature have been kept safe from the deranged schemings of the entity known as “The Man”. They are a reflection of human nature, the beautiful and the ugly, the normal and the abnormal alike. When a literary magazine succeeds, it can soar to new literary heights like a majestic eagle. However when a Literary magazine fails in its literary mission, it falls shamefully to the ground like an overweight dodo bird, and its existence is left to dwell in the terrible corners of our nightmares. Two members of this library of Literary magazines are The Windy Hill Review and Mush. Both of these fine magazines come to us from the University of Wisconsin colleges system. The Windy Hill hails from UW-Waukesha and Mush  is based UW-Marathon County. In reading the 2014 editions of these magazines readers will find that while Mush is better literary magazine in terms of its presentation, both magazines are equal in terms of the quality of their respective prose, poetry, and art works.

The first consideration that must be made when comparing the two magazines should be how a magazine presents itself. Now let me be clear, I am not advocating that books should be judged on their cover, but all literary works do need to present themselves well. It allows the reader to not only have a glimpse of the quality, but if a literary magazine is presented well, it creates less distractions for the reader. The covers of both magazines are both well done. The cover of THe Windy Hill Review has a green border with a hand-drawn picture of a house in the middle of the woods at night-time. Mush’s cover is a combination of mostly dark colors with a lot of “shadow triangles”. Both of these covers do grab my attention. On the back cover of Mush we find the magazine’s manifesto. Manifesto’s and Letter’s from the editor are nice to have in literary magazines simply because they can help new readers know more about the content and mission of the Literary magazine. It can serve as good starting point for the reader. Mush indeed, has an incredibly awesome manifesto. It states “ We are available on lunch breaks, holidays, sick days and long commutes through traffic.”(Mush, 2014). With this statement the manifesto seems to be effectively saying, this magazine is readily accessible. The manifesto also declares that “As the editors, it’s our job to connect hungry artists with lonely readers; readers who are still in the game despite bad first impressions and terrible first dates.”(Mush 2014). I enjoyed this statement largely because it informs the reader that his Magazine was made solely for the readers. That it is there to make the reader’s life better. Mush also has in the the front page a letter from the Managing editor, Shawn Igers. This letters what Mush and  gives us some background about the magazine. Unfortunately, for The Windy Hill Review, I was not able to find any Manifesto or letter from the editor in this magazine. Not finding this made me shed many watery tears.  If presentation were a first round of Mortal Kombat, Mush would have given Windy Hill a sound beating.

However, this review is as one popular song artist whose name I can’t remember said: “Its not over!” Luckily for us we don’t read Literary Magazines based on whether they are wearing this season latest yoga  pants fashion. Rather we primarily judge them on the content that we find inside the Literary magazine. Its like what another wise man once said: “It’s the inside of the cookie that counts, not the outside”. One delicious part of that literary magazine cookie is poetry. Poetry is something that can inspire us to wonderfully great things, or it can motivate us to gnaw our own legs off. Fortunately for us the poetry found in both of these literary magazines are not of Vogon origin. The Windy Hill has several great examples of poetry that can be found within it. But one great example from the magazine is The Culver’s Deluxe by Hannah Jones. This awesomely  righteous poem is about a girl and her struggle for hunger as she waits for some scrumptious food from that slice of heaven known as Culvers( If you have not heard of Culvers I command that you put down this review, find the nearest Culvers location and eat there. I have just changed your life forever and you are welcome).  Here is a delightful snippet from this poem

A burger is placed before me.

Everything, now, is as it should be,

a royal blue tray now maintaining my sanity

Its soothes and comforts me,

lulls my stomach to sleep.

The color blue begins

to make me happy.

I see a pickle, seasick no more.

At first on this trip I feel nauseous,

royal blue unsettling me,

but now I welcome the grease that provides for me momentarily.

Instant satisfaction that keeps me, holds me, cradles me.

Reading this poem almost made me believe that the editors of WIndy Hill were Nobel-prize winning geniuses. This poem made me feel as if I was in the actual restaurant Culvers and made me want to go there to partake of its ambrosia-like food. Its personification and use of the color blue throughout the entire poem is superbly well done. However, Mush does not disappoint us in the slightest when it comes to wonderful poetry. In particular one there was one poem  that caught my eye. Don’t Say the F Word by Hayley Wiessmann. Well just looking at the title you might expect this poem to be about a particular unpleasant four-letter word. However titles can be deceivingly wonderful, and this poem instead conveys a powerful message about the power of womanhood. The poem describes the ways that how men see women, and then goes on to say what in their own opinion who they really are. Here are a few lines:

We are not mermaids, we are sirens. We sing so sweetly you will not

realize your fate until it is too late

When you read us stories of how we needed a prince to save us from our misery

we stopped wanting to be the princess. We wanted to be the dragon.

This poem moved me. It made me think about this particular subject, and question my current way of thinking. This really is one thing  poetry is supposed to do. It can get you to change your way of thinking. These poems are clear examples of what really literary magazines should publish. Literary magazines are supposed contain content that reflect upon things that society is dealing with. They are supposed to challenge our viewpoints and help us reach new understanding.

In addition to poetry, we cannot have a true literary magazine without prose. From hair salon gossip to Greek epics, everyone loves a good story. Prose is simply the written form of that story. Windy Hill and Mush both have those stories. One great example from Mush is the story A Warrior’s Death by Matt Habeck. How would I describe this Story you ask?  It is an awesomely flaming round-house kick to your soul. Basically the story begins with our red-bearded protagonist working in a gas station. The day seems to be gjust your your average day when two evil robbers(who probably think star wars episode one was a good movie)  enter the store. They kill an old man, and this angers our red-bearded hero, who attacks both robbers with a box cutter. Alas, while his mighty blows of righteousness succeed in bringing down our villain, he is tragically slain in the end.But he awakens! This is what he sees: “A small host of viking warriors rushed out of the forest, and encircled me before I could bet back to the boat. The tallest among them, his armor worn from use, braided red beard extending to his chest, stood forward and spoke. ‘With a mighty beard like yours. I’d bet you are one of my kin! We haven’t had a newcomer to Valhalla in ages! Tell me, oh warrior, of your final battle!” We the reader are then left to assume that he kicks major butt at the battle of Valhalla. Seriously, that was a pretty epic piece. It is a modern story that literally feels like a Viking epic when you read it.   Windy Hill had a surprisingly large number of longer prose pieces in it. A nasty Habit by Paul Klipstein is one of those pieces. It is about a man with a smoking problem who works at a butcher shop. He meets a woman who is smoking. To help himself deal with the addiction. He murders her and cuts out her lung. Dang that escalated quickly. Here is a sample of this work: “I knew that his women was going to die soon, and I believed that her death was going to be by my hands. But after feeling this incredible power of having killed, I knew that all I would care for or crave in this world would be several, sweet, deep, long drags off a cigarette, followed by the most relaxed exhaltations. Oh, if I could just indulge ONE. More. Time.” That is one of the most creepiest things that I have ever read in my entire life. This piece gave me chills. It was violent and gory and did not make me feel happy thoughts. But that is why  its a good piece. it makes me feel something when I read it, it draws an emotional response from me. This piece shows that his magazine wanted to take a risk.

All in all, Mush is a better magazine due to its layout, and individual presentation. However The Windy Hill Review 2014 is definitely not trash. The literary work contained within it is worth reading. I honestly believe that these literary magazines are a lot like comic book superheros in their teenage years. They have a long a way to go before they can kick evil’s hairy behind. Some improvements might include better presentation or a more determined manifesto that adds boldness in a literary magazine. Both works have a lot of potential,  and with work, determination and effort, they can be more than what they are. They can that beacon we need to save the literary soul. They can be, Literary Legends.

Motivation for Poetry

Want to submit to MUSH but cannot think of a story to write? Easy! Write a poem instead! In my completely unbiased opinion as one of the poetry editors, poems are heaps upon heaps better than short stories. We aren’t expecting you to send in perfect iambic pentameter, not that we would complain if you did, with poetry you are free to choose your own structure, to rhyme or not to rhyme, to follow whatever paths the words take you down. You want to send in a 500 word poem about one leaves journey from a tree to the ground? Awesome! You want to write a 10 word poem on sex? Fantastic! All we are ask of you is that you take this as an opportunity to express yourself, to set free your thoughts and to write down where they wander. It does not matter if you wrote your poem in a café in Paris while sipping a coffee, black. Or if you wrote in in the margins of your math notebook waiting for your next class in the Union. So write! Submit! Be published!

-Hayley Weissman

Submission Time Winds Down

The submission deadline for Mush ’15 is looming large on the horizon, October 17th. The works the editorial staff has had the pleasure of experiencing makes me excited for the coming weeks of debate and discussion.

If you have a piece of art that you have sweat/cried/exerted over then please send it to mushmagazine.uwc.edu

We look forward to receiving and reading all of your works of art!

On Beginnings and Goals: Notes From Our Editors

I’m not quite sure how to describe how excited I am to be editor-in-chief of this year’s Mush Magazine without sounding exceedingly peppy and insincere. I have a lot of thoughts on how this magazine can be made to reach its full potential. In short, my main goal is to produce a great magazine that people will enjoy, and display the talent of UWMC and NTC students.

-Heidi Lindsley, Editor-in-Chief

Looking forward to this year’s Mush magazine, I’m incredibly excited to help piece together and help voice the artistic thoughts of the many college students in the Wausau area.  If there was one word to describe how I feel about this year’s issue, it would be fresh: we at Mush are proud this year to bring fresh, vibrant and multifaceted work to our readers, and can’t wait to broadcast the voices of so many up-and-coming authors and artists.  Rest assured that this year’s amazing staff is dedicated to making the very best literary magazine UWMC and NTC students have to offer!

-Jacob Joyce, Managing Editor

Marketing and Sales Editor—-Taylor Schlinkmann

I like to think that Mush magazine will be seen as something that pushes the limits or boundaries of typical literature common in a college setting. As sales and marketing editor for the magazine, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I want others to view our 2014 version of Mush. In past years it’s been something that students disregarded and was thrown in the trash. That will not happen this year and we, the editors, have made sure of that.

As a group, we have strategically chosen everything from our final pieces for the issue to our marketing tactics. All of these things have come together to embody a piece of literature that sparks creativity amongst writers, artists, and even those who may have believed they had no interest in such things.

I am a firm believer in the idea that marketing makes or breaks a product. Our latest marketing endeavor was to purchase 100 pens. Some of you are probably asking yourselves why we would choose pens to spend our already minimal funding on. We are a college run literary magazine. Who doesn’t use pens in college? We are planning on simply walking up to people in the halls, handing them a pen, maybe saying have a nice day, and then moving on. We don’t want to overwhelm anyone, but this tactic definitely will still do the job to advertise the magazine.

The Mush staff is continuously planning new marketing opportunities that everyone will be seeing around campus very soon.