Creating art is typically a solitary activity. It requires patience, time and a decent amount of frustration and self-doubt. This is why the unveiling of any creative work—after hours upon hours of perfecting it—is worth celebrating.
Last Tuesday evening, several of Seattle University’s student writers and artists were able to do just that.
The 57th edition of Fragments, the English and Creative Writing Department’s annual publication of literature and visual art by and for students, was revealed Tuesday night at a launch party in the Lemieux Library. Some of the student writers featured in the magazine read their pieces, while others who created visual art for the publication discussed the thought process behind their work.
As many of these students aspire to work in the creative field after graduation, having their work published in Fragments is a glimpse into what the professional world might look like.
“It’s cool that this [magazine] doesn’t read like something that was done in a class setting,” said senior Trey Tice, one of the editors in chief of this year’s publication. “It feels very professional.”
Tice and senior Sophia Lizardi, both English majors, worked together as this year’s co-editors of the magazine under the supervision of English professor Dr. Susan Meyers.
“[Last year] I was in the midst of a mid-major crisis because I wanted to do something that would let me apply my degree, but I didn’t have a lot of experience,” Lizardi said. “So I thought this would be a really good way to get involved and get experience with publishing.”
Fragments went through a few changes this year that the staff hopes will continue to improve the publication in the future. More focus was put into encouraging students to submit visual art, which in the past has received less attention than the writing component of the magazine.
Senior David Strand, a visual art major, filled a new position on the staff this year as Fine Arts Coordinator. Strand became involved with the publication last year when a few of his own art submissions were accepted for the 56th issue.
“I got the impression that the literary side of Fragments was very strong, and the visual arts side got strong submissions, but there was room to improve,” Strand said. “I really wanted to focus on the fine arts side and bring in those submissions.”
Another difference between this issue and those from year’s past is that the content is not working off of any particular theme. Lizardi, Tice and the rest of the staff felt that this would allow students to share their best work, rather than pigeonholing what they could submit.
“That really opened things up, because we got a lot of random, very different pieces,” Tice said.
Roughly 30 students have their work featured in this year’s edition. The process for picking content for the magazine was designed to be completely unbiased; the pieces were judged without names, so that even members of the staff didn’t have a definite shot at getting their work into the final product. Tice’s own work was not accepted, but he said the magazine is stronger because of it.
“If my pieces weren’t strong enough to get in, they shouldn’t have gotten in,” he said. “I was a little upset at first, but it’s a learning process.”
As they get ready to pass the torch to next year’s editorial staff, Lizardi and Tice said they hope writers and artists on the Seattle U campus will continue to hone their crafts and keep the appreciation of literature alive.
“I want people to be appreciative of their peers,” Lizardi said. “And I want the artists—the ones who submitted and the ones who were published—to keep writing and keep publishing beautiful things.”
Fragments is available for purchase for $5 at the Lemieux Library and at the English Department office on the fifth floor of the Casey Building. Here are just a couple of short works being featured in this year’s publication:
Sincerity of Skin
“Jillian, what are you?” A huddle of eager first-grade faces surrounds me. The cafeteria swells with clamor, becomes heavy with the tang of canned peaches and kitchen grease. I lift my face to the vague inquiry. “Huh?”
“What are you? You know, like I’m German and Irish.” Over the murmur, I hear a flurry of responses. “I’m Vietnamese!” “My mom says I’m Hawaiian and Samoan.” “I’m Japanese.” “So am I!”
I sink back into my uncertainty. What am I? This lunchtime litany has rested on wooden tabletops, settled in between milk cartons for over a week now. It’s been following me. What am I? I am the fruit of two family trees, roots reaching halfway around the globe. I don’t know how to explain this. I settle. I tell them, “I’m mixed.” They assume this is all I am.
I remain still as discussion becomes uproar. First-grade mouths long to name their identities, needing only a phrase to claim completeness. I envy this ease. I long for this brevity, this fitting within boundaries without the need for leaving a part of myself out. First-grade hands poke out of the crowd. First-grade arms stretch desperately for attention, skin like polished porcelain.
My gaze falls to my own skin. I see dusty splotches of cardboard. I see hues that don’t quite fit. Two halves that don’t make a whole. I see ‘incomplete.’ My skin sighs, muddy and dull. It does not boast grace, but cowers in shame.
It is now the morning after my eighteenth birthday. My parents face me. The worn wood of our kitchen table stretches smooth between us. Each cradles a mug in the fold of their fingers and breezes sift through the open window, offering delicate whispers of morning. Today I am an adult. We are adults.
The two of them gaze at me with easy eyes, no longer towering ethereal or statuesque above me. They are organic, tangible. I watch their captivation, observe the skin they present to the world. My father has cheeks like cherries left to ripen in the sun. My mother’s face is the inside of an almond, smooth and milky. I smile as contentment unfolds within me, warms the space beneath my chest.
As I leave the table, I happen upon my reflection. Here, I see my skin—actually see it—for the first time. No longer dreary or half-complete, my face is the shade of sandy footprints left by the dawn’s first beachgoer. It does not blind its spectator, but beckons her instead. My skin unfolds, becomes a trail speckled with shades of ivory and honey and coppery golds. It admits its own richness. It celebrates its ambiguity, its rebellion toward convenience. No, this skin is not singular. This skin falls between borders, refuses a name. It is stubborn and unwilling and requires patient explanation, but it is me. My skin is all I am.
Three Short Tales of Brutality
The nighthawks were screaming in the grey morning, and a blond calf with the stupid face of an infant trundled towards the rocks to see the outcrying.
The newborns dragged from the nest left little blood for the afternoon rain; the gull wasted little, and its beak worked with precision enough to crush and swallow its small prey. Nocturnal eyes straining in the cold light, the nestlings’ feeble chirps woke their guardians, as the gull bit into tender, wrinkled flesh. The second chick had been the most trouble. Larger than its fellows, it had not gone limp after being knocked against the stone. The gull favored to slice into the bird’s right side and patiently tear off one stubby undeveloped wing. The chick had lain dumbly on its side then, sinews trying futilely to flap the missing appendage. It did scream as beak penetrated laceration, but fell silent when a chunk of heart-flesh came away in the gull’s jaw, a movement that splayed red webbing across white plumage. The chick had been easy to gulp before much blood slicked the rocks crimson, the unfeathered wing left abandoned.
The third chick did not struggle at all, but the sight of it descending whole—eyes open and flecked with blood—into the gull’s horned maw, drove one nighthawk mad. It swooped low and dashed itself against the gull. The predator staggered and regarded the crippled nightjar with one golden eye. Sated, it unfurled lazily and sailed away, and a blond calf walked back to his sleeping mother.
The shopping bags weighed satisfyingly on the tourist’s arms as she and her husband rounded a corner toward the air-conditioned hotel and discovered the gull. Where people were plenty, scavengers were fat and fearless. Most city birds would swoop food from unsuspecting passers-by, but this gull was leaner, and had a less-vicious look about the eyes.
The vagrant was dreaming of cheese. Cheap bread, like the loaf he found earlier, was sustaining, but cheese would make it a meal. This musing gave the otherwise dispirited wanderling pleasant dreamings as the gull hopped away, the solitary loaf pinched in its beak.
It broke the tourist’s heart to see the poor creature, and the injustice of it enraged her. She handed her bags sharply to her husband and moved forward in the cautious fashion of those who have seldom known subtlety. Had she seen the man who slept in the doorway beside her she would have hurried on, but she was determined to do good. The gull hopped from her, leaving the plastic-wrapped package on the asphalt, and as the tourist collected the loaf, her eyes remained warily on the gull. It seemed that little experience in scavenging tricks would cost him today. She was stronger than he and would take the prize—a brutal truth shared by man and bird.
The tourist unwrapped the loaf and extended it in a gesture of kindness unfamiliar to the bird. The thief and her husband pasted the vagrant with a swelling sense of pride, as the gull tore hungry chunks from the loaf. And from the sleeping man there came a laughing, and the bird took flight.
“Life is long and difficult, child, but you must endure.”
Sofiya thought she understood those words when the priest spoke them through the confessional screen, but it was not until she left home at nineteen with her husband that she knew the truth of them.
The world is unkind to immigrants; often they are treated more as vermin than kin. The couple had been on the streets three weeks since the fire, but they had been in poverty well before then. The landlord was accustomed to their position, and extortion had become routine. Kilm’s job brought little and took much, turning him hard, and they sank into a debt that was collected in flame.
The begging fell to Sofiya. Kilm knew the language of their new home better, but he spoke little after the fire left him disfigured and jobless. Most days he wandered drinking what he could and never asking for more. At day’s end, Sofiya found him sitting on the curb, as tourists walked by. He turned his fused, pink flesh from her, but she reached to embrace him. There was little tenderness, but pain and desperation drew them close. Sofiya loved him as best she could. She loved him because she must—he was all that remained to her. And, as passing faces blurred, misunderstanding, she endured.
When I was small, I was afraid of moths. My mom told me that they were just butterflies God hadn’t colored in yet.
I didn’t trust them.
As I grew up, I grew less afraid of moths and more afraid of people. The older man who sold candy out of his bedroom from his home by my middle school, my boss at the grocery store who would touch my leg as he told me to “keep up the good work”—they all had a hollow greyness in them that seemed to lurk and follow me in the dark.
I didn’t trust them.
When I met her, I was afraid of her. I saw her ability to so easily flee and her fascination with the light. Her hair fell in tumbles of brown curls and she didn’t own a brush. She seemed unrealistically free and volatile, living a life that was fully colored in.
I didn’t want to trust her.