• The Iris Review

Review of The Scarab

The Scarab is a literary journal from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, presented by the Sigma Tau Delta English honor society. The literary journal publishes genres of all kinds, namely fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and artwork. Poetry is the most prominent genre included in the thirty-fifth edition of the literary journal, which is the one I will be discussing at length. It is published annually and has won the society’s 2003 award for best literary anthology in the nation. All students that attend Oklahoma City University are open to submit to the journal and the editors take submissions as well as questions through their email account: ocuscarab@yahoo.com.

People always say that one should never judge a book by its cover, but I decided to buck the traditional adage and began to read what Scarab had to offer me based solely on the cover of the thirty-fifth edition. It’s a bit of an abstract painting, the cover, almost as if Jackson Pollock decided to fling his newly dipped paintbrush onto the cover. A mix of reds, yellows, blues, and greens adorn the front cover along with a formation of disfigured black lines on the left side. I really like this cover a lot as it showcases what the reader is about to experience: a bit of a mixed bag of different authors, poets, and artists showcasing their talents on one canvas. I even like the font of the title page as well. The reader gets the sense that this is perhaps going to be a bit of an artsy literary journal and I like that.

The title font from the front cover is continued onto the table of contents page as well as the rest of the journal. While I really enjoyed it on the front cover, I don’t really think it belongs on the rest of the pages. At times, it feels distracting. It sort of detracts away from the original work, and that is definitely something one doesn’t want their reader to feel. The only other time that font truly works is when it is on a page by itself displaying what genre the reader is about to read, i.e. poetry. On a page by itself or on the cover, it truly shines. But when coupled with large portions of text, it takes away the true spark of the work.

The table of contents seems a bit smashed together. All of the works included in the journal span a little over one hundred pages, but all of the information is tightly compacted in the table of contents page. There is barely any room for the text to breathe and I find myself just skipping over it to get to the actual meat of the journal. I do respect their decision to lower the amount of space for the page, but there definitely could have been space for another page. And the editors did have the space to do it because there are quite a few blank pages at the end, which I understand their reasoning for, as they wanted to give more space between the artwork. But more on that later.

The pieces included in the journal are actually quite good. The poets play around with form: some have their poems centered, some have them right-aligned, and some have stylistically used two columns for their poems. Most of the poems are free verse, but there are a few instances where a poet uses a traditional rhyme scheme. Most of the poems are good, but there is one that I truly enjoyed, and that is the very first one the reader encounters: “Being in Love” by Patience Williams. I really like this poem because it explains that being in love is equal parts mundane, extraordinary, and contradictory. It is a very brief poem, but the language of it is beautiful. My favorite line from the poem is “Nothing accompanies everything at the piano, he plays and she sings and / they don’t make eye contact but the room is full of light…”

The longer prose pieces, however, are not aesthetically pleasing. Because they are longer pieces, they are divided into two columns on one page. While that is fine for some journals and magazines, I don’t really think it works here because there is a lot of white space around the text. Again, that’s good for other journals and magazines, but it just doesn’t work here. Luckily, there aren’t that many prose pieces and half of them are very short.

Something that I really like about this literary journal is the artwork that they include. Instead of photographs, artists submitted actually artwork: paintings, watercolors, the works. This was definitely a change of pace for me as I am used to seeing only photographs in literary magazines. And

the works of art chosen are truly wonderful. My favorite artwork is an acrylic sharpie combination called “Working Mind” by Onnika Hanson. It is styled after the left brain / right brain motif. One side is more analytical and mathematic, the other side is colorful and more artistic. The colorful side is actually the cover of the literary journal.

All in all, there are good things and there are bad things about this student-run literary journal. I think, however, that the good things outweigh the bad, as the journal overall is aesthetically pleasing and has a good amount of poems and paintings.

For more info about The Scarab, click this link: https://www.okcu.edu/artsci/departments/english/publications/

-Austin Cross, editor

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