• The Iris Review

Review of The Vanderbilt Review

The Vanderbilt Review is an undergraduate literary and arts journal of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. The magazine is published once a year at the end of the Spring semester and its first publication was in April 1985. I received the Spring 2017 issue.

The first thing I noticed was the size. It is a square magazine measuring about 7x7 inches, which sets it apart from a typical magazine. With 55 submissions, the size helps add thickness at 153 pages. The front and back covers are photos from the submitted pieces that feature the front and back of a house placed on the corresponding covers. A white border surrounds the photos and provides a place for the magazine title and volume number. Overall, the magazine has a vintage aesthetic from the predominant colors of white and gray used for the covers, text blocks, and section divisions. The drawback to the white space on the covers is the high chance of easily dirtying the magazine.

Looking into the magazine itself, the staff is listed and followed by a note from the editor. Before the table of contents, the prose, art, and poetry winners are showcased. The table of contents is divided by genre with the page number, title of the work, and author centered. The changing capitalization, boldness, and line length causes the table of contents to seem overwhelming and busy. Each genre is divided into its own section, which helps break up the magazine and maintain a flow through each genre. The divisions were created by an abstract sketch of a house sitting on a gray background that reflected the cover photos and created continuity of that image. At the end of the magazine were blank, gray pages that are designated as space for reflections, which welcomed the reader to delve more in depth into the works and created a two-way interaction with the work.

The title and author of prose and poetry are listed at the top of the work itself, where with art, one page contained the image and the opposite page had the creator’s name in a gray brand and the title above it that helped break up the white space. Every couple of pages, the sides of the artwork and the name would switch, which is disorienting if you are just flipping through it. Multiple pieces by the same person were often not together in art and also poetry. I liked that some of the artwork had a description of the medium that was used. Within the section of Art, there was also a multimedia category that helped round out the art section by including music. In terms of the works themselves, there did not seem to be an overarching theme, but each piece expressed its own idea and had the ability to standalone.

The first piece that stood out to me to discuss is called “Touch,” by Julia Lubarsky. It is an artwork created by digital photography and paint. It stood out to me because of the mix of a photograph and paint that seems layered together to form one photograph, rather than one element on top of another. The paint as well as the eyes of the subject equally draw the reader’s attention and cause one to look twice to see how the paint interacts with the subject’s hand placement. There seems to be double meaning relating the act of finger painting to the subject touching her own face. I enjoyed it because of the combination of painting, photography, and digital art that came together to create it.

The second piece that I liked and want to discuss is the poem “The Day My Brother Came Home” by Rebecca Bendheim. I enjoyed reading it because of its vivid imagery that plays with the coldness of winter and the flat responses of the narrator in contrast with the liveliness of the brother and his inability to be affected by the cold. I also liked the ambiguity that is over the relationship between the narrator and the brother. Dialogue dominates the poem, but the diction allows us a greater glimpse into their characters. It creates an effect of examining relationships as well as the differences in the types of lives people choose to live.


-Rebecca Franey, editor

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