Chris Lettera, President of the SLAA
James Rhodes traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to visit Youngstown, Ohio. Contrary to what you may believe, James is not a crazy person. A Simon Research Fellow from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, James came to our city to write about race, class, gender, deindustrialization, and boxing. James did not confine himself to the library. He spent time in the East Side Civics and Athletic Club, in the Southside Boxing Gym, both studying and becoming friends with Kelly Pavlik, our city’s former middleweight boxing champion.
Kelly told James how, when he fought Edison Miranda, who’s a tremendously hard puncher, he got hit so hard that he wanted to curl up into a ball. There came a pain, Kelly Pavlik said, that he felt run down his whole body. The muscles in his chest twitched involuntarily. But he didn’t take a knee.
What keeps a person standing when they get hit that hard? In the case of Kelly Pavlik, that has become a complex question. We wish Kelly the best.
What keeps a city standing when it gets hit that hard? In the case of Youngstown, that is a very complex question, but in this room tonight, many of the answers are living and breathing.
The Student Literary Arts Association salutes anyone here who has ever paid attention in class, especially those quote-unquote boring writing classes. Generations past built our city – our country – with their hands, their backs. We don’t have jobs lined up at the mill, so we work with our minds.
We salute Tom Pugh – whose group The Writer’s Block has gathered faithfully nearly every week of the year to share and discuss their prose and poetry. These are students with jobs who leave class to go to a class of their own. After-hours learning and community-building.
There’s Tony Nicholas, our featured visual artist for this issue, who told us he has photographed race cars to pay the bills. “You’re not going to see any race cars on Saturday night,” he assured us. Tony has created unflinching visual documents of this city and its citizens. His work challenges, questions. He does not provide easy answers. His images ask us – his audience – to investigate.
There’s SMARTS – Students Motivated By The Arts – a free K-12 art school in downtown Youngstown. Let me repeat that – a FREE K-12 art school here in Youngstown. Spend some time with Becky Keck and Leslie Cusano and you will know a miracle like SMARTS happens through hard work. We’re proud once again to have partnered with SMARTS to teach a Jenny writing course where children and teens write and publish their work in SMARTSmag, our young adult version of Jenny that will be released each Spring.
And there’s Christopher Barzak, our faculty advisor on this project. This man doesn’t get a course release for helping us build Jenny. When he’s responding to endless emails asking “How do we build a literary magazine,” when he’s encouraging us to publish our work, when he’s teaching – what he gets, I think, is joy. What he does, is give tirelessly.
So when the punch is thrown, there is, in Youngstown, a community of storytellers, poets, musicians, and visual artists who will not look away. They fight back by creating art – and they do so with grace in their hearts. It’s our privilege as students to showcase their work in the pages of Jenny.
David Drogowski, Web Editor, Jennymag.org
As 2011 draws to a close and we present to you Issue #003 of Jenny, I can’t help but wonder how best to label the past year. I’m tempted to try and put a name on it, to sort of distinguish it in my memory with its own special moniker to call back to. No year that comes and goes is uneventful. But 2011 was notably marked by a pattern of pressures and counterpressures on the working class at the city, state, and national level.
In Youngstown, after years of concessions, the YSU-OEA teacher’s union was pressured to accept even further concessions by the YSU Board of Trustees and President Cynthia Anderson. In Ohio, Senate Bill 5 (backed by Gov. John Kasich) was passed to prohibit public union workers from striking and from negotiating on most contract issues. Only by petitioning and sending the bill to a state vote was it repealed by over 60% of voters. At the national level, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner stalemated over the nation’s debt ceiling, dropping the fed’s credit rating in the process. Obama was unwilling to make cuts to entitlement programs that sustain the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable, cuts that Boehner insisted be a part of any deal.
2011 was The Year of the Big Squeeze.
The Jenny magazine was established to champion the rust belt’s ongoing process of creation. But where we are is a product of where we’ve been. Youngstown and the rust belt itself have always been communities with blue-collar history, places where work has been celebrated and the sweat of the masses greased the wheels of progress. This year we stand by the working class, proud to align ourself with those who raised this place up on their backs and will do it again.
Now, on to business: This issue is one I’m particularly proud of.
Stephen Sniderman’s piece, “Two Ways to Judge Fiction,” is exactly the sort of essay I’d hoped to eventually publish. It discusses the schools of thought about the purpose of literature: whether it be for pleasure or for something more.
Richard Bowe’s fiction piece “His Only Nose” is an absurdist look into the existence of persons from alternate dimensions. These otherworlders abound in this story, tucked inconspicuously into the fabric of our daily lives.
In poetry, Pam Anderson’s poems explore the early 1940’s, complete with the story of an American paratrooper, a brother’s death, a tranquil look at childhood. Richard Hahn’s “The Day Igor Stravinsky Got Busted” examines the true story of Igor Stravinsky’s unconventional major seventh chord that turned the national anthem into a legal case in Boston, Massachusets. The issue’s poems are all truly fantastic, dealing with the ongoing drama of the human condition. These poems touch on love, loss, suicide, the beauty of youth and sixth-dimensional superstring theory. They represent some of the finest we’ve been privileged to publish.
I’m grateful to those who write and those who read, and to be a part of this ongoing project. The creative spirit lives on in these pages. You are the people who make that happen, and who give that purpose. Thank you all for making Jenny possible.