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Undergraduate poetry review eschews literary exclusivity

By: Yvette Lisa Ndlovu,  AS Communications
Mon, 03/27/2017

In the two years since its founding in the summer of 2015, Marginalia, an undergraduate poetry review society, has produced four issues and drawn together undergraduates from all majors and colleges with a shared passion for poetry.

“Marginalia was founded on building community and bridging some of the exclusivity that sometimes can be latent in publishing a magazine of this kind,” said Jesse Gabriel Gonzalez ’17, editor-in-chief, who was also a part of the founding board in 2015.

Alejandra Alvarez ’17, founding co-editor-in-chief, suggested the name of the publication. The idea came from a Billy Collins poem by the same title and means the notes and other scratch work found in the margins of books, manuscripts or letters. The founding board felt that this name expressed their desire to bring poets and poetry out of the corners of the Cornell literary community.

“The idea of a community of writers is important in any context because writers tend to write and work in isolation,” said Rachel Whalen ’19, chief of staff, who joined the publication after her piece, “Circuit Break,” was featured in the first issue. “So to have that space where we can come together and workshop pieces and put out a magazine and facilitate a discussion about what we do is very important for us to grow as writers.”

“Marginalia” opens its submissions to Cornell undergraduates for two months; this semester’s submission window ends April 1. The editorial board, which receives more than 100 submissions, dedicates five to eight hours to deliberate and vote on which pieces to include.

The publication has plans to expand. Last spring, a graduating member created a website as a parting gift, which has allowed “Marginalia” to reach an audience beyond Cornell’s undergraduate community. One of the ways it hopes to expand is through “Marg Mondays,” in which the members post a particularly inspiring poem from either an upcoming or established poet to their Facebook page.

This semester Marginalia hosted its first public workshop, where anyone could have their pieces read and critiqued. More poetry reading events and outreach programs are being planned.

“I came to Cornell searching for a strong community such as the one I found in Marginalia,” Whalen said. “Marginalia was a crucial part of my transition to college, and it has been wonderful to be around so many great writers.”

Yvette Lisa Ndlovu is a communications assistant for the College of Arts  Sciences.

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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