If you’ve ever taken an English class at Brock University, there is a good chance you’ve heard of the Harpweaver. I first learned about the Harpweaver in my first-year English class. Every once and a while my professor would ask if anyone was interested in volunteering for this literary magazine.
“It would be a wonderful experience!” she claimed. The word ‘magazine’ enticed me, but the ‘evaluating of literature’ caused me to look the other way. Since then, I think I might have come across the word Harpweaver in passing a time or two. Never though, until now, two entire years later, did this mystery magazine find its way into my hands.
What exactly is the Harpweaver? It is a literary journal containing poetry, photography, art, fiction and interviews. It features works from writers and artists all over the world. An editorial board of Brock students select the contents of the bi-annual magazine from hundreds of submissions. Volume 9 – Autumn 2001 has recently reached bookstore shelves near you.
When I agreed to the task of reviewing this publication filled with works approved by all-knowing-genius-literary-lovers, I was not quite sure what I was getting myself into. This publication has already been evaluated by super-literary-types. Can I possibly have something of value to add?
The answer to that is yes, yes I do.
Not that I was looking for or expecting a motivational book, but after reading the Harpweaver, I did not feel particularly uplifted. Death, loneliness and heartache prevailed, but they did so in an enjoyable way.
“Feeding the Grackles” is a short story about family, childhood memories and death. The flashbacks between the narrator’s childhood and the present make the story intriguing, showing how certain events from the past have an impact on one’s feelings of the present. The beginning ties in with the ending, giving purpose to the title, while creating some meaning and purpose to the story leaving the reader with a sense of harmony.
The story “Possessions” is a worst nightmare come true. The main character is dumped by her fianc near the time of university graduation. She chooses a career that she neither loves, nor excels at and has trouble paying the bills. She also suffers from severe hair loss due to stress and her only gratification in life is her small apartment, which she fills with unique decorative items. While depressing, it was motivating at the same time.
I also enjoyed a few of the poems. “Manoever” grabbed hold with its catchy beginning:
“tear and tear are spelled the same way/and this makes sense to me today/as I try not to cry/ripping his photos in half…”
The rest of the poem did not keep my attention, but I am always intrigued by the English language in a homonymical sort of way.
“From the ground up” is a concrete poem (a poem which the words are arranged into the shape of the subject of the poem,) which captured my attention first on a visual level, and then offered a challenge in figuring out how to read it correctly (see the title). I did not identify with the content of this poem on an emotional level, but it was definitely fun trying to figure it out.
“Matinee” was an interesting poem that left me stumped at the end. If anyone knows of “an ancient cowboy whose name is now cocktail drink,” let me know, because I feel like I know, but I really just don’t.
So it turns out the Harpweaver can be an enjoyable read for anyone. The stories and poems are similar to those you are forced to read in English class, but they are the ones you actually enjoy reading because there aren’t any with animals as starring characters. I hate animal stories unless there is a good message. Animal Farm was acceptable; Charlotte’s Web, not so much. But we’re not dealing with animals here. I find poetry to be something you need to come back to multiple times before it makes a lot of sense, unless it is something that is so good it reaches out and grabs you because you identify with it. Nothing really reached out to me, but I think I would like to go back and read a few of them again.