Oakland Review provides opportunities for alumni

While this past Saturday saw Tech Street empty and desolate — free of the presence of any buggies — The Oakland Review, Carnegie Mellon’s undergraduate literary journal, gathered a small but intimate crowd in the University Center for a special reading of poetry and fiction.

The group gathered in the McKenna Room of the University Center for what was deemed by most a thoughtful and entertaining reading. “I thought that the event was a success — the audience seemed to enjoy themselves, and there was ample time for both students, alumni, and Terrance Hayes to read,” Shannon Azzato Stephens, co-editor-in-chief of the journal, said in an e-mail. “For my part, I was honored to read with Terrance.”

Sara Keats, assistant to the editors-in-chief, spoke of the authors and the pieces that were read. Of the first three readers, Keats said, “Elyssa Goodman graduated last year, and the poem she read was accepted for our fall 2010 alumni journal. The second and third readers, Brian [Sherwin] and [Gabriel Routh], read their work that was accepted into our upcoming issue.” The final two readers were Stephens herself and Terrance Hayes, The Oakland Review’s adviser and winner of the National Book Award for his book of poetry, Lighthead. Keats said, “I believe both poems Shannon read were from her senior thesis. Terrance Hayes read after Shannon and closed out the program.”

Stephens said that, while there was no particular set theme for the reading, the goal was to focus on celebrating The Oakland Review as an organization. Stephens, who organized the event with the help of Mara Barker, the director of regional programs in the Office of Alumni Relations, said that “the roster of readers I set up included Oakland Review staff, students published in this year’s alumni and undergraduate editions, and Terrance Hayes, our adviser.” Keats was pleased that the alumni that attended took such an interest in the event.

In a sense, this event, combined with the alumni edition of The Oakland Review that was published in the fall of 2010, worked in tandem to foster a stronger network among _Oakland Review _alumni and graduates of the English department.

With regard to The Oakland Review’s alumni network, Keats said in an e-mail, “I’m really hoping we got the word [out] about submissions for the alumni journal. I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think that there’s an established alumni network for English the way there are for other departments, and there certainly isn’t an alumni group for The Oakland Review, so to see people take that kind of unprecedented interest in what we do was really nice.”

As of this spring, there have been two alumni issues published so far. The first was published in the fall of 2009, while the second was published in fall 2010. Although the alumni issues began as an experiment, after the highly positive reception of the first alumni issue, the idea was deemed a success. Oakland Review editors are planning on continuing this series in the future. “The alumni issue is great, just because it gives us a reason to exist in the fall semester and keeps us connected to graduates,” Keats said. “I think our contact list for the alumni journal comes mostly from lists of people who submit while they were here who have recently graduated and from names we get from professors in the department. Hopefully this event will mean we’ll get a few new writers next semester.”

For those interested in exploring the literary and artistic offerings published by The Oakland Review, the wait won’t be long. Stephens said that the journal’s 36th annual undergraduate edition comes out April 29, the same day as the Adamson Awards. Copies will be free and distributed around campus.