Editor’s note: This is the last of a two-part series on “Byzantium.”
In a showcase of poetry and fiction “Byzantium,” Cal Poly’s student-produced literary annual, proves to be a channel of creative expression and matchless opportunity for designers, editors and writers who get published in it.
“(The journal) is a validation of the excellence students have to offer,” said Kevin Clark, English professor and advisor of “Byzantium” production.
Clark also said that like many other successful Cal Poly endeavors, Byzantium started out as a senior project 15 years ago, was created by an undergraduate student and has since “grown considerably,” he said.
Once finished, the journal will be unveiled during Open House weekend and exhibits poetry and fiction of 12 writers: six poets and six fiction writers who won an annual creative writing contest held by the English Department for all majors, said Jessica Barba, English senior and “Byzantium” co-editor.
“Many would be surprised to know that some of the winners are engineers, chemists, architects and aggies,” she said.
The journal is described as a honor in the English department. Within in bindings and pages lies something tangible to display the excellence Cal Poly writers have to offer academia and literary communities across the nation alike, especially for graduate school consideration.
“The students who are published in Byzantium not only get the attention and prestige of winning an annual creative writing contest – but they will have a concrete example of their work that they can show to prospective graduate schools, employers, etc.,” Barba said. “It’s always great for poets and creative writers to be published in any shape or form.”
Clark said the journal highlights the future success of the writers published in it, and the work can go as far to become an actual “a prediction of those successes,” he said.
Todd Pierce, English professor and performer at “A Night of Fiction and Poetry” – a fundraiser held last Thursday for the $8,000 needed to satisfy the steep production costs of “Byzantium,” said the book was “lavishly produced,” and is also an excellent opportunity for not only those published in it, but also for those who have the opportunity to produce it.
Barba agreed by saying and she is extremely honored to be one of two co-editors for the journal. To her, “Byzantium” represents not only the excellence in the Cal Poly community of writers, but also as a long awaited goal of her own.
“The first time I saw a copy of Byzantium was when I came to Open House as a senior in high school,” she said. “I was so impressed by the quality both of the work inside the book, as well as the people who put the book together, that I told myself when I came to Cal Poly; I would do whatever possible to get involved with the creation of it.”
Being a part of tradition is also a factor in the honor those involved in “Byzantium” gain, Barba said.
The other student creators who also play pivotal roles in the journal’s final product in 2006 are English senior Shawn Magee and art and design senior and creative director Alex Chrisman.
Typically, the waiting list to design “Byzantium” is three years long, Chrisman said, but when the first designer dropped out, Chrisman was asked to fill in and he immediately “leaped on the opportunity,” he said.
“It is a beautiful portfolio piece and an invaluable experience designing and producing a book,” Chrisman said. “I love book design and wanted to do something big for my senior project, and Byzantium is it!”
Magee said Chrisman is an excellent choice for the journal’s design element, and that he will be able to take the design to compliment the creative expression of his fellow artists.
“I really trust that he will create a design that will make this book beautiful and still showcase the great writing inside.”
Chrisman said that he wants to take a design focus that will shed light on the writers within the book, stressing importance on the contents inside rather than its cover.