Writing through the years

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Exile, Denison’s student literary journal featuring fiction, nonfiction and poetry, recently has been archived online through the Denison University Digital Resource Commons. Several campus collections, including the Denison Journal of Religion, Ephemeris, Articulate and Episteme, were digitized this year alongside Exile through digitization grants funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and through partnerships between faculty members and the library.

Peter Grandbois, assistant professor of English, and humanities librarian Joshua Finnell partnered on the digitization of Exile, an archive that is now searchable online from the journal’s first issue, published in spring 1955, to the most recent spring 2011 issue.  The literary history of Denison University is readily viewable with just a few quick clicks, including the following excerpts from past journals.

In the inaugural spring 1955 issue, junior Sally Falch ’56 “holds a realistic mirror to our generation” from the male perspective in her short story, “The Finishing Stroke”:

“New Jersey highways are the worst. Puny farms and punier towns, that all add up to just one thing: nothing. At least this was the verdict expressed by the three of us sardined into the front seat of PJ’s coupe. PJ, Vern MacCaffery and I were enroute from Philly to a blast. You know, a sort of coupe de grace to a wretched summer, spent roof shingling, if you can imagine a more plebian occupation. Anyway the last roof was roofed and it was Labor Day and well, is there better reason for an uninhibited party or two? So, when PJ said, ‘How about taking off for the shore?’ Vern and I yessed with much gusto. Decided we’d look up old Annie, a pretty good girl we all dated back at school who was playing waitress for the summer. But the best laid plans of mice and men etcetera—anyway, this billboard by billboard existence ceases to be too diverting after a while and with each ad, our fond vision of old Annie faded” (39).

In the fall 1969 issue, student Tim Cope ’72 offers a brief but poignant portrait in an untitled poem:

“My mother died as I shall die
Alone in an upstairs room
On a summer’s yellow afternoon
With old lace curtains swimming in the air
A worn rag rug on a bare plank floor
An open transom above the door
Two threadbare sheets on her father’s bed
And two flies buzzing on the window-glass” (20).

In the spring 1983 issue, well-known author and alumna Pam Houston ’83 writes of failing love in her short story, “Refraction”:

“The windshield wipers smeared the scarce snow flakes across the windshield elongating the scenery in front of her. The cold breeze that came in the window even when it was rolled up (ever since she had broken in with a coat hanger) hit her left cheek. She held on to its familiarity. He was reciting stories of his childhood as they drove past familiar sites” (26).

In the spring 1985 issue, Ann Townsend ’85, alumna and professor and department chair of English at Denison, is featured with her poem, “Elegy”:

“I stand here drenched with mist, repeating what you have told me:
forgiveness, your best word.
And the river at my feet is hushed and broken.
I’d like to lift you out of there” (6).

In the spring 2011 Exile, student Brittani Ferguson ’11 concludes the issue with her poem, “Gateway”:

“I once heard the dead live in the
Starlight, that path in the sky where
Light travels to Earth, like a gateway.

I like to think of you there, resting
Amongst the stars and waiting for us
To join. I see the light and I can hear
Your voice softly fall from the sky.

Here, the leaves sit in piles, carried
Off by the cool nighttime breeze.

I like to pretend your laughter floats
On the wind, drifting lazily over black
Waters and echoing on some distant
Shore for someone else to hear” (64).

The Exile archive, as well as Denison’s many other journals past and present, can be accessed at the Denison University Digital Resource Commons under Campus Scholarship.

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