Packed with a dozen short stories and a delectable mix of photography and artworks; with poetry ranging from eccentric Haikus and mini-anthologies to an original poem by Les Murray, ARNA – the creative journal released annually by the Sydney Arts Students’ Society (SASS) – has been compiled and is now ready for its release.
Honi Soit caught up with this year’s editors-in-chief Alex McKinnon and Eleanor Gordon-Smith, who offered a sneak peek at what you’ll see when the journal is launched this Friday evening at the Verge Art Gallery.
As a journal that welcomes change and is still defining its niche, Alex and Eleanor discussed some of their key considerations when assembling this year’s edition.
“The quality of what went in ARNA this year was of such a ridiculously high standard, we had over one hundred submissions in the end and it was a really difficult culling process. We culled a lot of good stuff that would have made it in most years,” Alex says.
“I think we have about 45 submissions at 130 pages – we don’t have any critical essays this year, they never quite, in our opinion, fit the tone of ARNA. We decided in the end that three critical essays in a journal of otherwise completely creative material would stick out badly, it’s an unfortunate decision, but the right one.”
The decision is indicative of the tone of the journal this year, with an emphasis on facilitating creative expression. Both editors were cautious to ensure that ARNA wasn’t bogged down by the notion that a sombre, more serious tone was needed in order to produce work of a high standard.
“I think there has been a lot more, and a lot better, whimsy in this year’s ARNA. There’s a couple of pieces that I just adore, there’s a three-line poem by Xiaoran Shi that’s fantastic, there’s a visual piece called Polar Exploration, with little lego men exploring the Arctic and a creative piece by Adam Chalmers. They’re all just so tongue-in-cheek and have a really youthful voice about them that was something I was really pleased to see in ARNA this year,” Eleanor recalls.
“People have learned not to take it too seriously. That’s the problem with literary journals, people think they have to be sombre and heavy, and they don’t; it’s good to see people writing in their own voice,” Alex adds.
With ARNA’s visual editors travelling out to SCA and getting in touch with the University’s Fine Art Society and PhotoSoc on campus, this year saw an emphatic response in the number of photography and artworks submissions.
“We had a huge number of visual submissions, in part because we had a team of fantastic visual editors, they were rewarded with kilos of submissions of a fantastic quality,” Eleanor says.
“There is a lot of digitally-manipulated photography and some really beautiful artworks in there as well,” Alex adds.
The poetry editors, who of their own volition set up a Poetry Slam, were also rewarded with bundles of submissions to wade through and scrutinise.
“There’s a lot of long poetry and particularly a lot of the poems that we chose to publish came as parts of mini-anthologies that people have sent us, the sheer volume of poetry that we received and in turn were able to publish was huge,” Eleanor explains.
I ask Alex about the original poem Les Murray sent through on his trusty typewriter.
“It’s this really beautiful poem about his days at uni, when he was living in a share house, it’s very affecting,” he says.
With a typically large sub-editorial team, ARNA is dependent on the many, not the few, and when it comes to this year’s team, Alex and Eleanor were full of praise for the support they had received.
“They were fantastic, they [the sub-editors] did 90 per cent of the real work, and half of it they did without us telling them to do anything,” Alex claims.
“They got really invested in it, like Alex said, the little things like when we got news of the foreword, of Mungo coming down and the [Les Murray] poem, the level of excitement that all of them had about that demonstrated a real personal commitment to the journal,” Eleanor adds.
After a 34-year hiatus, ARNA returned in 2008. Since its re-inception into the University of Sydney’s literary scene, the status of the journal has steadily grown, carving out a place amongst the University’s top journals.
“I think that there’s a place on campus for every type of creative expression and I think ARNA fulfills quite a niche version of that. I’m really pleased with where the journal must be sitting in the collective consciousness and the way people must be working towards it,” Eleanor says.
“Purely in terms of ARNA’s presence, this year was by far the biggest year. Even in terms of the people who applied to be sub-editors, the fact that we had such a high-standard and at least thirty people apply. People are hearing about ARNA, it’s a thing now,” Alex says.
Friday 14th September
Verge Gallery 6-8pm
Guest speaker: Mungo MacCallum
Price: $17 – available at the launch
Drinks and nibbles provided