On Thursday, Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m., Glassworks, the literary magazine housed in Rowan’s MA in Writing program, held a special launch celebration at High Grounds coffee shop, to celebrate the release of Issue 27 of the magazine.
The event featured a booth where you could talk to students associated with the magazine and purchase copies, and brief forewords and readings by others, but the stars of the show were the two guest readers.
The first was Melissa Boberg, the recipient of the 2022 J.F. Powers Prize for Short Fiction. A Boston University graduate whose stories have been published in various journals and magazines, she is currently based in New York, and works as a journalist for Boston and Philadelphia magazines.
Boberg began with a “flash-fiction” piece called “Sorry For Ruining Everything,” which was about a woman discovering that she has a STD. The piece was slightly comedic, and almost poetic in its style and form, and featured some really impactful lines:
“When you sucked the rum raisin out of the tiny triangle left of your cone, you told me you had a cold, and you didn’t want to kiss that into me. And I was like ‘yeah, it might look weird if we were both sick,’ and so I did nothing, even though what I wanted to do was drain the cream out of your tongue like we were reversing a vaccine.”
Her next piece, “Rocky and Clara,” was a much longer story about two college romances. The characters were likable, and their actions exposed the recognizable archetype they fit into; “Allias was reading Nietzche, which nobody asked him to do… It’s raining on the first of the month, and also sunny, and Clara would rather die than wear a bra.” Overall, Boberg’s stories were intimate, with the theme being the viscera of youthful sexuality– lots of mention of tongues, teeth and the like across both readings.
The next speaker was Laura McCullough, an established poet and the author of “Women and Other Hostages.” Two of her poems appear in the current issue of Glassworks. She began by bluntly talking about the state of the world right now, in light of current events;
“I don’t know how you’re all feeling, but I’m having trouble getting out of bed every morning.”
She moved on to a more personal poem, called “They Dream of AK-47s.” Both of her poems dealt with the nature of male violence, with this one doing so in a more immediate, explicitly political way:
“There is no ‘one’ in this poem. In this poem, there is only a hunting rifle, and a hunting club, full of lower middle class men in the lower half of New Jersey. I wish to speak of the Kalishnakov, named after its Russian inventor, but who cares about that.”
Next, she read a poem directly from issue 27 of Glassworks, titled “Daddy, You Do Not Do,” which had connections to the work of Sylvia Plath, and dealt with the darkness within her father:
“Too dark and too deep to look into, it was there in sudden angers, and it’s come out now: staring out the window from his wheelchair, raises a fist at a walking man, snarls, If I had a gun, I’d shoot him.”
There was a brief Q&A session after the readings, where guests asked the standard fare; how do you plan, how do you edit, etc. The most striking question was one that McCullough asked of the audience:
“With everything going on, what are you doing?”
It would not be unreasonable to assume that Glassworks publishes the writing of Rowan students, or at least people who are directly associated with Rowan. This is not true at all, in fact, the magazine goes out of its way to contact outsiders and feature their work, as Editor-in-Chief Katie Budris explains.
“The editors for Glassworks are students at Rowan, but we do not publish work by anyone affiliated with Rowan. So, the literature we publish comes from the wider literary community,” Budris said. “We publish authors and artists from all across the country, even internationally…both of these writers just happened to live in New Jersey, so we invited them to come join us.”
You can follow @rowanglassworks, @melissaboberg, and @lauramccullough111 on Instagram to read the work of all involved.