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.