Generation Y seeks solace in art, literature, and poetry

by Sofya Levina / Beacon Staff • April 24, 2013

Summer is quickly approaching. For students, this means that it’s time to say goodbye to friends, roommates, and daily routines. While trying to pack an entire year’s worth of rubble and deciding what to do with the collection of empty Yellow Tail bottles, memories flash as each one clanks to the bottom of  the recycle bin. It’s difficult to be stuck between the melodiousness of the past and the bitter realization that it’s impossible to relive those moments again. 

The spring 2013 Gangsters in Concrete publication, funded by the Student Government Association and the writing, literature, and publishing department, oozes black and white memories;  from childhood love to a spiraling depression over things that will never be. Gangsters in Concrete, a journal of original poetry, prose, and art published by undergraduates, will be holding its 2013 release party for its reflective periodical today at 6 p.m. in 216 Tremont, Room 301.  

The story “Seventeen and Twenty-One” by Jessica Harriton, a writing, literature, and publishing major, best summarizes the desolation that has a prominent presence in every other piece in the issue. 

The protagonist first encountered a psychic when she was 17. She had a coupon and took her friend Pia so they could laugh at the experience. However, at the uncertain age of conversion from child to adult, the heroine was secretly haunted by shadows of doubt that she hoped would disappear in light of new discoveries about her future. However, just as she was ready to move past uncertainty, she later finds herself in the same place, except this time she is 21.

“There is something eerily similar about these two ages. As a senior in high school, I was searching for answers the same way I am searching for them now, as a senior in college. The questions are different, but that nagging, itchy, can’t-get-my-head-above-water feeling is very much the same,” writes Harriton. 

“Agony,” “anger,” “sadness,” “confused,” “yesterday,” and “misery” are all words and themes sprinkled through the publication. It feels highly personal, like reading a literary diary.

That sense of loss of direction and helplessness in the presence of time is also reflected in the story “Golfing in Myanmar” by Chase Souders, a junior writing, literature, and publishing major. It is an eerie piece of fiction that trails military officials as they play golf in the midst of anarchy. A man by the name of Private Sut stands guard with an AK-47 as the generals play rounds.  As he watches their caddies stuff clubs into golf bags. He remembers himself as a young man. He thinks about his future, and that he has never tasted American beer.

Performing his duty, yet wishing to either be somewhere else or go back to being young, he is trapped in an armed purgatory, and his escape is only felt as he falls, dead, face first into the green. However, this does not deter the generals, for they replace the dead with new faces that help them carry the bags and protect them. Everything seems to keep moving, but nothing seems to matter. The piece, written with surrealistic calm, drives the idea that time will decide everything, but change nothing.

Through the verses of poems such as freshman Tyler Lavoie’s “march” and “High School (For Allen Ginsberg),” junior Bobby Crawford’s “Champagne and Chocolate Pudding”, and senior Nicole Brown’s “A Summer Cigar,” — all writing, literature, and publishing — a longing for simpler days  or for ones that will be better, is woven through the lines. 

Each piece felt like it was written as a meditation on the author’s place in the modern condition, and it seems like it is a very melancholy place. There are references to childhood innocence, the importance of the beauty of a young girl’s right ear, and the memory of a girl and her father’s affair with a tight-rope walker . The details in the language make thoughts very vivid, tuning the reader onto the collective memory, missing those simple days of smoking cigars and drinking cheap wine on the porch.    

“…who, in the sunlight stop sign cul-de-sac labyrinth of suburbia, swung their feet into dustyfour-seat sedans and /learned to drive, /and drove, to New York, to Boston, to Friendly’s, and sat in torn pleather booths slurping ice cream from antiseptic spoons, /who crashed, rolled on the wet green bosom of youth, and ruined BMWs, wiping hangover from their eyes /who died, on long roads and long nights, in unsung accidents atop the torch-lit tor of Seventeen…” writes Lavoie in “High School.”

 This ode to Ginsberg’s “Howl” and Gangsters in Concrete’s elegy to this semester at Emerson both reflect the uncertainty faced by students trying to understand who they will become and how they got here.