An eclectic group of some of the University of La Verne’s most diligent creative writing students gathered for the launch of the 18th annual Prism Review literary magazine Tuesday in the interfaith chapel.
Students celebrated the launch of the University’s own literary magazine by reading the poems and stories that left an impression on them.
Throughout the semester, it is up to these same students to wade through submissions from all over the country, giving them added familiarity with the final works.
“We talk about, for poetry, the strength of the sound, the author’s attention to rhyme and diction, and certainly rhythm, and then we get into things like content and imagination, juxtaposition,” Sean Bernard, associate professor of creative writing, said.
“Then with fiction we’re usually looking for vivid stories that are urgent, the characters are complex – they’re meaningful, they’re impactful, kind of those basic categories. It’s usually going to be a combination of those things.”
It is Bernard’s job to lead the editorial discussions for Prism Review, and by all accounts, deciding what does and does not make the final issue can get pretty heated.
But the passion is tempered by scholarly etiquette.
“The students feel strongly about the things that represent their aesthetic views, and they rightly should,” Bernard said. “Even at the highest point of the passion in the class, I think everyone knows we’re on the same page and the conversation isn’t ‘I like this, you’re wrong,’ it’s ‘this is what I like about this poem.’
“Somebody else may disagree with why that poem is better or worse than another poem, but we always come to consensus because we’re all pretty good readers about the strengths of a certain poem or the weakness of a certain poem and the same with fiction.”
Tuesday’s festivities also saw senior creative writing major John Abbasi read his prize-winning short story “Darling Young Boy,” which Prism subscribers can find in the latest issue.
Every year the Prism Review and a special judge choose a story or poem. Abbasi’s story got the nod this year.
Set in Japan, the story is about a young man named Kiyoshi, who has to deal with a very special problem.
“Kiyoshi gets bullied a lot,” Abbasi said before launching into a passage. “What makes him different is that he’s got this long wispy beard, which is weird for a kid in high school.”
“The reason he has this beard is that his father was never in his life, so no one ever taught him how to shave.”
As the story picks up, Kiyoshi finds solace in an unlikely friend.
Abbasi’s influences span the worlds of literature and film.
“I guess a huge influence for me is Haruki Murakami,” Abbasi said. “He’s an author of literary fiction – short stories and novels. I didn’t set it in Japan just because he’s Japanese per se, but I guess that sort of Japanese storytelling is something I’m really into.”
“Also, I watched Studio Ghibli – ‘Gee-Blee’ if you pronounce it correctly – films like ‘My Neighbor Totoro,’ ‘Spirited Away,’ the Miyazaki films,” Abbasi said.
Leticia Abbasi, John’s mother, says John’s love of reading and writing started early on.
“I’ve always read to them, my both sons, from the time they were little,” she said. “John has always been a writer. I remember in middle school he decided he was going to write a novel.”
“He would write chapters and he would put it away for a while and put it away again and write more chapters. He’s been writing for a long time,” she said.
The Prism Review publishes student work and interviews and reviews with emerging writers.
For more information on how to order your own copy of Prism Review for $9, visit laverne.edu/prism-review.