President of the YSU Student Literary Arts Association
In Youngstown, there is a very specific idea of home and love.
Pierogies. Mill Creek Park in the summertime. Long walks through the Butler Art Museum between classes. Rust Belt Beer. Phill Kidd’s handshake, the one that’s more about the forearm and the heart than the hand. Karaoke at the B and O Boxcar Lounge. The YSU Poetry Center. Geo’s record shop. Christopher Barzak’s novels. Every loud band that’s ever played at Cedars or the Lemon Grove Cafe.
Even the Taco Bell on the hill. It’s not local, but after a late night, it’s always worth the drive up Fifth Avenue.
Around here and in the world, there is no longer a specific idea of loss. It’s all around. It’s not enough that we live among the ghost buildings of deindustrialization. In a city where many choose to work hard and embrace peace, the news is brimming with tragic violence. The national news is overflowing with environmental disaster. In our own national and state government, there are forces waging very public war against the working class, against women’s rights and against the GLBT community.
The creative writing in this Spring 2011 issue of Jenny – the stories and poems, the work of Dr. Rebecca Barnhouse, the striking visual art of Hannah Woodruff – these contributions do not directly comment on the badness in this world, and yet they have incredible power over the badness in the world.
Creation – the making and putting forth of something – is and will always be one good way of telling the devil he can go back from where he came. And in Youngstown, there will always be creators. There will be listeners, watchers, readers. Bruce Springsteen, whose song “Youngstown” was one of the creative inspirations behind our project, said that the purpose of the artist is to serve as the canary in the coal mine, the idea being that when it gets dark, it’s time to start singing. The contributors to this issue of Jenny have together formed a beautiful song, one joined by a new set of gifted voices – the young students of SMARTS (Students Motivated by the Arts), whose enthusiasm and energy have reenergized our shared mission to promote literacy.
The artists among us – especially the student artists – we want to go to work. And as long as there is an audience for our makings, we will continue to listen to our better angels. We will continue to do our best work, and we will continue to showcase the work around us – the art – that entertains, informs, and heals.
Web Editor for Jennymag.org and Smartsmag.org
At the debut of our last issue of Jenny, we of SLAA made a clear point that one of Jenny’s primary purposes was to seek some kind of connection with the world beyond ours, or perhaps more specifically to engage some sort of conversation. The hope was to demonstrate that we are still very much a productive force in the Mahoning valley, even in the absence of the industry that once made this place.
I was growing curious as to how effective we had become in starting that conversation, and I wanted to know (as we all did) how far our message was reaching. I applied a hit tracker to the website on March 30th, one month to the date before the launch of this Spring 2011 issue. What I found absolutely amazed me.
By the numbers, as of the time of this writing, we’ve logged 1,269 unique hits from places around the world. We’ve been viewed in Japan, Germany, South Korea, Russia, France, England, Italy, and all over the United States. Jenny’s words have been viewed all over the world. You can view this hit map at the foot of each page on Jennymag.org
I was blown away. We had chosen the online format for this specific reason, but I was truly inspired to see that our vision is slowly becoming a reality.
Jenny has been mentioned in the Storysouth Million Writers’ Award Notable Stories of 2010 list for Matt Lattanzi’s “Dreaming in Flesh,” which appeared in the Fall 2010 issue. The same story was featured on fictiondaily.org, a site whose editors dedicate themselves to “finding good stuff to read in places you wouldn’t normally look.” We’ve been fortunate to have these nods, and gained a number of readers as a result.
If you have enjoyed Jenny, all we ask is that you share it. Please use the sharing links on our site to share the pieces you’ve enjoyed. This is how the conversation starts, and we’re thankful that you’re a part of it.
This issue of Jenny is really, I think, an excellent and varied collection that will really surprise you. Amanda Miller’s “Idora” examines Youngstown in the wake of the collapse of it’s million dollar playground, and the ghosts that have formed in its absence. Annie Murray’s “Reflections of a Housecleaner” takes heed of the stories told by artifacts, as does the photography of Hannah Woodroofe in her collection, “Afterhouse.” Bill Ebert’s poem “Six Chimps and a Typewriter” will make you laugh, but “Less” will spin this previous merriment into silent wonder. We’re very pleased to publish the work that we are, and we hope you’ll enjoy it.
We wanted to also create a similar space to showcase what the young writers in YSU’s SMARTS (Students Motivated by the Arts) program have been creating. Even before our first issue launched, we were convinced that the writings of young people here have a lot to say about our literary future. I think of it in terms of renewable resources. We must foster the inspiration of the arts in our young people, I think, if we are to hope for a future as flourishing as our present. The SMARTS program is one of Youngstown’s finest centers for enriching and encouraging that talent, allowing it to take root and grow.
It is with great pride, then, that we present the SMARTSmag, a collection of some of the creative writing that SMARTS students have created in the Jenny Literary Magazine Creative Writing Workshop. The stories and poems are inspiring to me. It was not lost on me that these young people bared their souls, revealed their fears, sang their futures, and celebrated their love in these pages. I’m glad to be a part of sharing that.