Years from now when we are too old to remember the school work we did during our college days, Cal Poly students will be able to look back and read the creative efforts of students in 2009.
Keeper of the Story is the theme for this year’s edition of Byzantium, the student written, edited and designed literary magazine.
“What we wanted to stress this year was the importance of preserving literature and passing it on from generation to generation,” said Erin Santos, English senior and co-editor. “Byzantium is kind of Cal Poly’s legacy; it protects our literature and passes it on and people can be a part of it and also look back at past volumes.”
The title Byzantium comes from the William Butler Yeats poem “Sailing to Byzantium.”
“For him it was a place where artistic and philosophic achievement happened,” said English senior and co-editor Emily Anderson.
Students have been contributing to Byzantium since it began in 1991. For the editors and art director it serves as a senior project.
Illustrations for the magazine were done by art and design senior Shelby Moulden, who also looked to Yeats’ poem and research of Byzantium for inspiration.
“He took a lot of time to really study the Byzantine Empire and it was really a lot of looking at the armor to protect and the time period,” Santos said. “They were protecting the treasures of that time period just like this is protecting ours.”
Moulden said he wanted the book to be valued by its owners.
“We wanted the book to be kind of like this treasure that people can appreciate and be like, ‘Oh this is a treasure I want to take this book and read it because there is something great inside it,'” he said.
The artwork combines ornate lettering with swirly patterns and decorations resembling those of ancient Byzantium and Turkish medieval times that were based off the church of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.
The length of Byzantium allowed for Moulden to expand his creativity.
“Usually in art classes you only make a 20 page book and here is a 150 page book. It was phenomenal to research about the Byzantine Empire because it was really cool and the art is really pretty,” Moulden said.
As always Byzantium includes the top three winning entries in both poetry and fiction from the Al Landwehr Creative Writing Contest. The winners are selected by four English professors with backgrounds in each particular writing style.
This year’s edition is longer than previous years and will include even more fiction and poetry with additional editor’s choice selections.
English freshman Cameron Simpson, whose short story “Stavi Caltero is Hungry” won first place in the fiction category, said the win was unexpected.
“I was hoping for honorable mention,” he said. “I hadn’t taken any creative writing classes yet so I wasn’t really sure if I was doing it correctly; it was just more of a hobby for me. It was a pleasant surprise.”
His story is about a Catholic priest who is also a cannibal. Simpson described the story as a little risqué.
“I just thought it would be funny to think about the idea of transubstantiation and the Catholic belief that the wafer at communion actually becomes the body of Christ and how if someone was a cannibal that would be a temptation to them and it sort of went from there,” he said.
English graduate student Dylan Bowes won the poetry category with his poem “Hannah.” The name represents what his parents would have named him if he had been a girl or had a sister.
“My poem is about the sort of a desire for a connection with someone of the opposite sex and how not growing up with a sister creates problems for relating to a girl and the ultimate failure of romantic relationships to satisfy that lack,” he said.
Contributors to Byzantium have the freedom to write about any topic or theme they choose.
Santos said some of this year’s subject matter for the short stories included the idea of second chances, the issue of cutting and another about a boy with an alcoholic mother and what it is like for him to learn to fend for himself.
“The poetry we have is such a wide variety; we have the writing itself, relationships, rape, sex, going insane on Monday mornings,” she said.
The community will have a chance to hear these stories and poems read aloud during a special unveiling at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 27 at Steynberg Gallery. Copies of the magazine will be given out at the unveiling.
This is the second year Byzantium has been free. Loverspeak, a poetry reading in February, helped raise funds for printing 1,500 copies of the magazine as well as restaurant fundraising and advertisements.
“When you work hard and get to see your actual words in print in a little book it’s pretty exhilarating the first time it happens; it’s really neat,” said Cody Morales, an English senior and author of third place “A Second Chance.”
After the unveiling, Byzantium will be available on campus. Santos said tables will be set up in the English building, education building and possibly Campus Market and the University Union.
“I would just be happy if lots of students were curious (and) picked it up recognizing that we do have a journal and that our students are really talented and that there is a lot going on in the creative writing part of Cal Poly because a lot of times it gets ignored or forgotten,” said English graduate student Sarah Suksiri, writer of the second place fiction story “The People, You Know.”
English graduate student and author of second place poem “Maybe She Reached the Sea” Helen Knight echoed that sentiment.
“It is neat to see this kind of art happening in this community and on this campus and each work has some kind of significance it is trying to get across and maybe that will positively affect someone that reads it here and maybe it will inspire other people to write poetry or submit to the contest.”