Volume 1 Number 1
Southern California is a nexus of geography and culture, a place where perspectives about the world get reflected through the iridescent sheen of difference.
Southern California is a nexus of geography and culture, a place where perspectives about the world get reflected through the iridescent sheen of difference. In its inaugural issue, CRATE, a journal produced by the University of California, Riverside, has declared itself a place for these points of view to coexist. The editor’s note says this: “Within these pages, you’ll find many borders—genre-jumping, intimate moments—regarded, accessed, transgressed and juxtaposed: sacred alongside profane, contemplative mingling with bawdy; structure with demolition. In CRATE, you will discover dialogue, not agreement.” It’s a complex self-assessment, one I’m not sure this journal entirely lives up to—yet. Certainly, there is an assortment of work here—poems, interviews, critical analysis, letters to the editor, short stories, artwork—and many of them do rub against the soft borders of genre, becoming hybrids of form; however, it feels as though, at times, quality was sacrificed in favor of variety. (Kudos to Neil Aitken for the lovely cover design, which clearly captures the editors’ intent—the various crate labels are a visual counterpoint to the content.) Still, I did find the effort made here worth consideration, especially E.J. Jones’s story “Brown Sugar & Flour,” Juan Felipe Herrera’s poem “I Forget the Date,” and Craig Svokin’s essay “If only L.A. had a Soul.” These pieces create emotional depth unique to the characters and places they write about, a definite strength in a journal devoted to the muddling of borders. For the next issue, my suggestion is to label the table of contents to clearly reflect genres (as the website does), and to continue to select work with a discerning eye toward well-crafted writing that doesn’t simply “def[y] conventional labels,” but that also does what some thoughtful pieces here do: explore experience rich with possibility. [CRATE, 1607 HMNSS, UC Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521. E-mail: [email protected]. Single issue: $8. www.crate.ucr.edu] — Jen Henderson