SOU unveils West Wind Review

ASHLAND — For three decades, Southern Oregon University has published West Wind Review, a showcase for experimental writing submitted from all over the world.

Its staff tonight is unveiling the 2011 edition, with a reading at the Schneider Museum of Art.

While many literary reviews pride themselves in the "droll, reflective, meditative" style of a century ago, the West Wind Review runs in the other direction, says faculty editor Kasey Silem Mohammad. Art and music embrace fragmentation and abstraction, he sayd. Why shouldn't literature?

"A lot of literary magazines act like nothing new has happened since 1910," says Mohammad.

He calls the new poetry "modernist avant garde," something the review has become a lot more focused on in the last few years, he says.

The 2011 West Wind release event, called "Emergent Forms: a 21st Century Reading Series" will begin at 7 p.m. A $5 donation is suggested and it's open to the public.

In this edition, whose cover shows a woman duct-taped to the floor, you turn randomly to "Poststructuralism Can Has Cheezburger?" by Brian Ang — and all of a sudden you know you're not in the America of Robert Frost. Or Walt Whitman. Or even Allen Ginsberg.

The poem starts out, "it OMG it it by the ROFL / LOL cat: LOL ROFL it / OMG it that it." After six pages, it ends, "his in as Of / off bomb, WTF / as WTF as as / Of." Those Internet acronyms are familiar to us all, except maybe ROFL — rolling on the floor laughing. Does the poem inform, enlighten, inspire, as in the historic tradition of verse, such as Frost's "The Road Not Taken"?

Mohammad, not a fan of Frost, makes no apologies.

"That (taking the road less traveled) has all been said," he says. "People went through the same disconnect with art, in cubism, and then it caught a foothold, but poetry and literature are the last bastion of sense — and when people stop making sense, it's upsetting."

The student editor of the 230-page review, junior Sarah Cunningham, says Ang's poem makes her laugh and helps her learn about language, which she wants to use in her future career as an editor.

"The West Wind Review is not your typical Ivy League review," Cunningham says, and it's not just a vehicle for publishing the works of students or Southern Oregon residents. It contains the works of 61 people without regard to geography, though most of them are in North America.

"I submitted to it. I hope to get in eventually," says creative writing freshman Riley Hamilton, attending a weekly poetry reading of Mohammad's students at Boulevard Cafe.

The readings feature works that are generally less abstract than found in West Wind. They're at 7 p.m. Wednesdays and are free and open to the public.

"West Wind has a lot of famous authors in it," says student Heather Frink. "I'm absolutely going to submit to it. It's great our university publishes it, a journal solely for outside authors. It's a lot less biased than if it were just students from our university."

After standing up as the featured poet for the evening, creative writing senior Zack Kennedy says readings give students confidence and practice in reading for other serious writers — and he plans to submit to journals next year.

"West Wind is mostly experimental poetry, which is trying to push boundaries in form and structure, about what language can do," says Kennedy. "It's not sonnets and ballads. You need an audience that can understand it, because it's so esoteric. My taste is not as extreme as Kasey's. His tactics are interesting. I try to base my stuff on what's understandable."

West Wind accepts manuscripts from July 1 to Aug. 15 at westwindreview@gmail.com, according to its website, http://westwindreview.blogspot.com/, and pays in copies.

It warns (or invites) writers: "We seek writing (verse, prose, other) which indicates that the submitter knows something about our journal, and has some idea of the kind of stuff we would never ever publish in a trillion years."

Or, as poet Carolyn Zaikowski advises in a poem on the Review's website, "Don't fart around like a donut boat / filled with hotdogs and dull knives. / Be a huge tree. / Be a yam or other root vegetable. / Go to the other shore."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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