An anthology is the salad bowl of literature — in fact, this is what “4: An Anthology of Fourth-Year Writing” strives to be. Consisting of various literary works by fourth-year students who have completed creative writing classes at the University, “4” mashes poetry and prose together quite audaciously. The resulting conglomerate does not seem to communicate a particular theme.
Instead, as defined by English Prof. Lisa Spaar, “4” is “an impressive gathering of aesthetically diverse student talent.”
The anthology certainly consists of “aesthetically diverse” pieces. In the collection’s opener, “A Beast,” fourth-year College student Billy Baker dexterously uses animalistic diction to question whether the narrator is man or beast. Conversely, fourth-year College student Yeshi Lemma offers a lens of sharp, humanistic introspection in “Letter to Menbere,” even using her own name in a stanza.
But “4” is also “aesthetically diverse” in its appropriation of language to construct beauty. Fourth-year College student Madeline DuCharme implements a story-within-a-story design to communicate the drab, dull and downright disagreeable nature of her narrator’s life in “The Editor.” This subtle but pervasive style makes the narrator’s revelation at the end all the more rewarding. Meanwhile, fourth-year College student John Nolan’s “Lancelot! Lancelot!” bursts with fervor, darting from proper noun to proper noun in an effusive barrage of similes and allusions.
Although pleasing, the sensual stimulation offered by similar works can also be a bit perplexing, due to a difference between artistic abstractions and ambiguous, cacophonic ones that is not easily discernible. Especially in prose, writers can pursue a concrete storyline or render sentiment through figurative language and other writerly tools. But they do not have to choose one or the other — as with most things in life, a balance is ideal.
Some pieces in “4” unfortunately tread too far to the latter side of this concrete-abstract spectrum. They dabble in perception and reflection and encourage passive reading. While literature is as suited to lead readers towards an end as it is to merely articulate a feeling, a reliance on abstractions can be confusing and distracting, with the product often being a muddled mix of metaphors. Fortunately, “4” does not frequently fall into this trap.
Or, if it does, the sheer breadth of content makes up for this potential pitfall. For, as Spaar said, the anthology “embodies an interdisciplinary cross-over among various University departments, organizations and schools.”
University students are constantly grouped according to major. Particularly after first and second-year, intellectual discussions often take place within the confines of a 3000-level classroom filled with students of similar scholastic abilities and career prospects. Reading “4” allows these students to experience fruits of thought in which they ordinarily would not be exposed.
So, expose yourself. The anthology can be picked up at the University Bookstore for free.