by August Linton
The 68th edition of Toyon, Cal Poly Humboldt’s multilingual literary magazine, was released on Tuesday, March 29. It is the culmination of a year of work by the staff, through forced distancing caused by COVID-19, across vast distances, and from a multitude of perspectives.
Contributions to this year’s Toyon came from countries around the globe. The submission base’s broad scope means that works in many languages are featured. Some of the works originally submitted in a language other than English are presented in both languages, and some of the translation work is only available online on Toyon’s website.
Maurizio Castè’s ‘Germogli verdi,’ or ‘Sprouts of green,’ published in both the original Italian and translated into English by Toti O’Brien, is a gently insistent witness to the beauty of spring, and to nature’s resilience in the face of climate change. This is a theme that surfaces at other points in Toyon 68, in Dobby Morse’s “The Fate of the Earth,” “Climate Change” by Larissa A. Hul-Galasek, and Meghan E. Kelley’s “What’s Left for the World to Say?”
In these works, there is a deep veneration of both nature’s delicacy and of her strength. There is also an anger that seems to well up from deep within the Earth; anger for the future of humanity in the face of a climate apocalypse and for the fate of the natural world in our aftermath.
There are many other standout poetic works in Toyon 68. The magazine’s opening work “Each Time I Held a Dying Bird” by Grace E. Daverson pulls the reader into delicately described and emotional pocket memories. As Daverson methodically describes each bird she has known, the wild joy of holding a bird in one’s hand and the childlike wonder of shining a flashlight into developing eggs organically melt into the glass-sharp grief of not being able to protect the ones you love.
Toyon also publishes short stories, academic literature, and visual art.
“Dismantling Structural Systems of Oppression Through a Revolutionized Pedagogy” by Ambar A. Quintanilla systematically explores the institutional barriers to education which Latinx and Black students face, multiplied by conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Quintanilla’s emotional connection to the subject matter as someone who has experienced these barriers (and who has seen the people she cares about be affected by them) is as important to the piece as her efficient and insightful analysis of the complex contributing socioeconomic factors.
Among the magazine’s small selection of visual art, “Thinking” by Ernie Iñiguez and Mario Loprete’s “Concrete Sculptures” stand out. “Thinking” is a polished and pastel digital illustration of a meditating robot, while “Concrete Sculptures” is photos of the artist’s graceful and haunting sculptures of folded clothes.
The theme of Toyon 68 is “hope and healing,” which is self-evident from the works within. The contributors’ love for this world and for the always painful process of healing is strung throughout the magazine, as taut and musical a guitar string. Healing takes time, passion, work, and love, and Toyon 68 has all of those. On the back cover of the volume, their sendoff is this:
“WARNING: This product contains love, anxiety, dysphoria, tenderness, birds, affection, grief, orange juice, trauma, anger, and maternal bonds. Side effects may include self-reflection and a sense of inner peace.”
Toyon 68 is available now in print and online.
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