Victorian Poet Allows Student Literary, Artistic Outlet

Alexandria Smith, Copy Manager

Literature, art, photography, poetry are topics that staff and students combine to create Instress, the university’s literary arts magazine.

The idea of  instress has existed for hundreds of years, according to advisor Thomas Simko, and was developed from two theories  by Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins on what defines poetry–in other words, what makes poetry, poetry.

“It’s based on this Victorian two part theory of poetics called “Inscape” and “Instress” and it’s one unified complex of characteristics with Inscape that gives things their uniqueness, where the Instress is what holds everything together,” said Simko. “So, when you’ve got the two parts together you’ve discreteness along with unification. So, the Instress portion of it,  the title that the magazine’s named after, is that unification.”

The  magazine – which has been the university’s outlet for all things poetry, prose, and art photography – has only been on campus for the last 50 years.  Alhough this is only Simko’s second year heading the project, he is  enthusiastic about the magazine and he said he did not hesitate when he learned there was an opening for the advising position.

“I was a student here that submitted to Instress and I ended up winning “Best Poetry” portion of it that year,  my graduating year 2007, and then when I came back as a professor it was being taken care of by another professor. He left, so they needed someone to take it over and I said “Absolutely, I’ll take it over,” said Simko.

With that change in leadership came an entirely new approach to the magazine, including the type of content as well as the submission process that each piece of poetry, writing, and photography goes through to be considered for the compilation.

“We have a grading process. So stuff that doesn’t make the cut, doesn’t make the cut.  So you might have a person that submits six things  and they might get one thing in. They might get nothing in,  depending on the quality,” said Simko.

This is because he considers the magazine to be a representation of students’ creative force.

“This magazine is a representation of the creative juices of this campus. So if somebody picks this up I don’t want them to read just anything, I want them to read amazing material,” said Simko, an idea with which several students on the staff, including senior English major John Meholic, agree with.

“We all actually care about releasing something of quality and value. We’re not doing it because we have to; we’re doing it because we’re passionate,” said Meholic.

The publication’s design is also changing, said Meholic.

“To be honest, Instress used to be fairly bland and generic, so once Dr.Rechtin left and Simko took over, we wanted to change the magazine. We wanted to make it edgier, more attractive, and different.” Meholic said.

The goal for a more comprehensive image for the magazine involved incorporating funkier graphics such as the infamous “Sir Chester the Cat,”  the mustached feline featured on the back cover of last year’s edition. But in spite of this  fun image, the work remains intense but enjoyable, according to junior communications major Matt Wiegopolski who initially became involved with the magazine as layout designer for his on-campus communications internship.

“With only a month to put the entire magazine together cover-to-cover, it was a lot of work to do in very little time. But to be honest, I wouldn’t have had it any other way because the hard work definitely paid off in the end. I enjoyed it very much, and I can’t wait to start the whole process over again in the spring,” said Wiegolpolski. “Hopefully, if it isn’t given away as an internship,  I’d love to design it again, this time with more help from [senior Matt] Schlasta. But if it is, I will most definitely be helping with Instress this year anyway.”

Though no design plans have been set, students who helped  last year look forward to what this year holds and expressed what they hoped to see with this upcoming issue, which will be prepared by Meholic, Wiegolpolski, and junior communications major and photo evaluator Heather Marsicano.

“I really want to see more art in this year’s issue. We only received one piece last year, which was depressing. I would also like to see Instress being printed on gold leaf. It’s just that good,” said Meholic.

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