Notes From the Undergrads #8

Notes from the Editors is a series of posts written by SDSU Engl. 576, a publishing and editing class.  They explored issues of literary life ranging from book reviews to literary graffiti, live readings to the writing process.  Today, enjoy the work of the Kaleidoscope editorial board.

“Grammar Rules”
Sarah Forest

With the accessibility of the internet and the globalization of information, how has poor grammar become so pervasive in our society? Tools to find the correct usage of language are more accessible than ever. From online dictionaries like dictionary.com to grammar guides like Grammargirl, twenty-first century citizens have no excuse for their butchery of the English language—especially when one considers the amount of time spent on the wireless Edens of information (Blackberries, iPhones, and laptops). In the age of rocket science and micro-engineering, how is it that we are getting “stupider” when it comes to our basic means of communication—language?

It can be argued that this English major is irritated by the drawn-out death of grammar because she lives in the world with laypeople, but it’s not just the average Joe that doesn’t know how to correctly construct a sentence. Our country’s former president was the king of grammatical bloopers. The corporations that decorate our streets and interrupt our programming are also guilty of grammatical slip-ups. While many individuals revert to fragments and abbreviations simply for convenience, such simplifications are viewed as indicators of stupidity by this passive observer.

As science continues to explore the world around us, amazing discoveries are revealed daily. According to National Geographic News, scientists have discovered that certain monkeys have the ability to understand the most basic structures of grammar—prefixes and suffixes. While scientists continue to test and reveal the cognitive abilities of the cotton-top tamarins, however, human beings are losing their grip on the constructions of the English language day by day. It is frightening that scientists are busy observing cognitive levels in the animal kingdom while humans continue to lose their language—reverting to simpler, primitive forms of communication that “get to the point”.

I would hate to hear what Shakespeare or Milton would have to say about the new approach to communication. As we sacrifice correctness and completeness for simplicity, we also begin losing our connection with our ancestors and our history. I am all for the rebirth of Early Modern English, as the language was much more expressive and simply sounded better, but I’ll settle for the preservation of the basic sentence structure and subject-verb agreement of modern English. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask of our schools and parents to promote proper English, but in the age of Starbucks drive-thrus and cell-phones, I fear that the beautiful language of Blake and Dickens will continue its slow death at the hands of Facebook and Twitter.

***

“Wiman’s Postolka”
By Lindsay Coughlan

I’m going to just lay it out there: I’m not a fan of poetry. Partially because I have read only a few contemporary poems that I have enjoyed, and partially because it’s confusing to me.

So when I listened to Christian Wiman read his poetry, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I felt conflicted because I don’t really like poetry but I have also heard how amazing his poetry is. I sit there quietly, listening to the sound of his words and the rhythm of the poems, and I am mesmerized.

All of his poems were soothing, but there is one poem in particular that stuck with me. The poem is called “Postolka,” that he writes while living in Prague. When he reads the poem, the words flow like sweet honey. The poem is about Wiman, who is situated next to an open window in his apartment in Prague. While he’s writing at his table, a giant falcon perches itself on the window sill, as it scans the city with power and grace.

“wish for something, you said / A shiver pricked your spine. / The falcon turned its head / and locked his eyes on mine.” These few lines are descriptive and beautiful, as you can imagine being there and experiencing what Wiman experienced. The poem almost has a magical element to it: the moment lasted only a minute and you feel a sense that the poet will never forget this experience.

It’s not that I have completely changed my mind about poetry, but listening to Wiman has opened my eyes. Attending his reading and hearing is poetry aloud reminded me that there is good poetry out there—you just have to know where to look.

****

“Inching My Way into the Twenty-first Century”
Cynthia Gonzales
For as long as I can remember, I have been a total bookworm. I began reading at the young age of 4, thanks to the “Jumpstart” computer game my dad brought home for me one day, and by age 6 or 7 I lived for the Saturday morning garage sales that usually had books being sold for just 5 cents! My obsession with the written word eventually got the point that when I was in the first grade, I proudly decided that I would give up reading books for Lent (a decision my mother gently told me wouldn’t be possible since books were a pretty major part of my schooling and that giving up school for 40 days would not be possible either).
By the time my senior year of college rolled around, my bookshelves were beginning to bear the brunt of my book addiction. They no longer looked like the organized furnishings that decorated the studies and libraries of the most scholarly of scholars, but more like the crowded rafters in my disaster area of a garage. Needless to say I was in dire need of a solution to remedy my diseased bookcases.
This past February, my prayers were answered. When my 22nd birthday rolled around I was gifted with the greatest present a self-proclaimed bookworm could ask for…a Kindle! The joy I felt while untying that big red bow was like nothing I had ever felt before. My friends and family watched in confusion as I lost all control over this piece of technology that the average Joe would not lose his shirt over; but I am confident in my assumption that my fellow Kindle owners felt the same way I did when they downloaded their first e-book.
I admit, I will miss the weight of a paperback, the feel of the pages between my fingers, but I will always have my shabby bookshelves to turn to when I find myself in need of a trip down the literary memory lane. This bookworm will always love my books, but my new bond with my Kindle will last a lifetime…or at least until the battery dies.

***

“On Publishing”
Rhiannion Lira

Publishing work has been a much longer and difficult process than I thought – just getting submissions is difficult. Most people tend not to want to submit to a small journal because it’s small and doesn’t carry a big name. Adam Deutsch, the chief editor of Cooper Dillon press, even mentioned that small journals have a hard time because most authors tend to think that the bigger the name the better they’ll do and they can move on with their career faster. It becomes more of matter of excellence rather than instant gratification and because publishing work is a daunting step, most people keep their works hidden from the world for a long time.

At times like these, it is best to use your connections and have them submit to you as well as advertising as much as you can. In my case I have used two art sites that I frequent as a way to advertise my group’s journal, Kaleidoscope, and have received a few replies from them. It is easy for people to forget about the deadlines so constantly reminding them in journals such as this or something like this, just posting journals is not enough. It is best to extend detailed information to your friends who have friends that know friends that have work they’d like to publish. Networking is essential for the word to get out. Word of mouth or type in most cases nowadays, is far stronger than most people think. It enhances the domino effect.

Even though I’ve been asking and asking people to submit works, most of them forget about it or they are too busy and since this if for an assignment, I believe that most people believe it’s not going to hold enough value to them. Even adding that they would be able to leave a legacy behind in a library doesn’t seem to entice them enough. A big name is what they are looking and hoping for and small journals such as Kaleidoscope is not as enticing.

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