• The Iris Review

Review of UNDERGROUND Art & Literary Journal

Updated: May 3, 2018

UNDERGROUND is an art and literary journal produced by undergraduate students at Georgia State University. They publish an issue of poetry, prose, and art once every semester, and accept submissions from all undergraduate students in America, from every accredited university and college. The Fall 2017 issue is the most recent available in both print and online formats, however, print copies are limited to GSU students and contributors.


The editor-in-chief for the magazine included two copies of the Fall 2017 issue along with a hand-written note, which I thought was a nice personal touch. The first thing I noticed about the magazine was the texture of the cover, it is very soft and feels nice to the touch. The cover photo bleeds out to the edges and is artistic enough to help denote the magazine as a literary journal. UNDERGROUND is situated at the top of the cover in white text prominently enough to be visible but doesn’t distract from the photo.


One of my favorite features inside the magazine is their letter to the reader. It was quirky and witty while also conveying appreciation to the reader and contributors, giving us a glimpse into the personality of the editors. The letter also did a bit of soliciting for future contributions from readers, which I thought was a nicely subtle way to advertise.

The magazine is slim with only thirty-eight pieces spread over fifty-two pages. The submission guidelines restricted the poetry pieces to a single page, and the prose pieces to a 3,000-word count, which probably contributed to their ability to accept so many pieces while keeping the magazine compact. Although, they do include a few blank pages whose function I have not been able to work out. The magazine is divided into three categories: poetry, art, and prose, which is reflected in the table of contents. There are slightly more poetry and art pieces than prose pieces. The art work is placed in the middle, which worked well to break up the more text heavy poetry and prose. While I think this layout works well for the magazine, it does leave the longer prose pieces in the back, so that by the time you get through all the poetry you may not want to get into the longer prose. It might have worked better to have the longer work in the front and to reward the reader with the shorter poetry pieces after the artwork. Of the sixteen poems, there were six that were my favorites: “Orange Blanket”, “1,267 Gum Wads”, “Exposure”, “Divergent”, “Most”, and “A Formal Rejection”. If I had to choose one from the poems though, it would be “Exposure”.


My favorite prose piece was “Why Song is Myself”. I choose “Exposure” by Rylea Mosier from the other poems because I like the way it is formatted first. Visually it is broken up differently than the other poems which helps it to stand out. Content wise, I love that the poem is about the intensity of a relationship and how the speaker is “trying to pick out / the pretty pieces” (l. 14-15) of themselves to show their partner. I think most people can relate to the desire to show someone only the best of themselves and the fear that comes when time means that you eventually run out of only pretty pieces to display. The authors use of “unzipped” (l. 1), “rib cage” (l. 3), “careful” (l. 6), “gentle” (l. 8), “glass heart” (l. 9), and “pieces” (l. 15) evoke imagery that conveys how fragile the speaker feels in that situation. The title adds to the overall poem, because it is about exposing ourselves to someone we care about.

I choose “Why Song is Myself” by E. Atemsk because it reminded me of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and I felt as though this piece was in conversation with Whitman’s. It is obviously much shorter than Whitman’s, but it also explores the ephemeral nature of personhood. However, this piece also brings in the concept of literal song, and both “myself” and “song” are temporary but not without meaning. In fact, the piece asserts that both have meaning in and of themselves without requiring connection to anything else. That they both “exist independent of the real” (p. 37), and that both “Song and myself are meant to mean” (p. 37). I like the message that people can be art too, and that we do not just represent art, but are the meaning of art.


This magazine is well curated and has something to offer everyone.

Digital format: https://issuu.com/undergroundgsu/docs/underground_volumeviii_issuei

Submissions: https://undergroundjournal.org/submissions/


-Lalonie McCarter, editor

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