While often dismissed as being too ethereal to provide social commentary, creative writing and other forms of artistic expression, told from a student’s perspective, can foster political discussion.
Transfer magazine, founded in 1956, is the longest running student publication in the country according to editor in chief Brisa Sepulveda. At the end of each semester, Transfer releases a compilation of student submissions, showcasing a variety of creative pieces including photography, short nonfiction/fiction stories, poetry, and some less categorizable works.
Their next issue, number 114, is set to be released at the end of this semester.
Notable alumni featured in Transfer include Anne Rice and Truong Tran. Rice graduated from SF State in 1972 with a creative writing degree and has enjoyed a substantial literary career. Tran received his Master of Fine Arts from SF State in 1995 and is currently a creative writing lecturer at the University. In the most recent issue, 113, they had the opportunity of interviewing Linda Norton, also a prominent counterculture poet in Berkeley.
Sepulveda, a 21-year-old creative writing major, understands the importance of these publications for having a unique ability to comment on current events.
“Sometimes it’s an almost overwhelming feeling of wanting to express yourself and not having the right words. Depending on how fresh an event is, sometimes it can blind people into feeling just one emotion very intensely,” Sepulveda said. “It can come through in writing and sometimes it becomes a little too personal.”
James Giffin, the 30-year-old major managing editor, echoed Sepulveda’s comments on the usefulness creative writing can have for social commentary.
“I believe there’s a disclaimer in the last issue, 113. They mention something about going for something more political, but other than that we don’t have any set themes. Although one could argue that all writing is political in a way,” he said.
Giffin explained the aforementioned quote as a matter of perspective. Everyone has a lense that they filter the world through, and by writing a story, regardless of the nature of that story, you expose people to the picture of the world through your lense. Your lense is part of your politics and thus anything written conveys a political message.
This personalized political narration is not lost of the staff writers. Laurie Olsen, a 21-year-old staff writer, echoed the importance of firsthand stories about the political landscape.
“Creative writing, I think, stems from the writer’s experience and their personal beliefs. In order to be a good stand-alone piece, it’s not just telling a story, there’s a message underneath it,” she said.
Taking politics down to a more personal level is a vital component to move the swinging pendulum of political discourse. Often times that personalization, accompanied by discourse, can be extremely emotional. Olsen explained that many writers detail intense traumas in their work. “We get stories of trauma, like survival, like rape survivors, very personal stories. Sometimes they’re stories of family history,” she said. “We just got a really long one about a writer’s father and brother from Mexico and their experience of going in and out of prison and how that affected his life.”
These kinds of intense emotional stories make not only for more appealing pieces but, by bringing the politics down to a personal level, it also gives others who may not have experienced such hardships a glimpse of the haunting aspects of political reality for many in our country.
Sepulveda notes that the vulnerability that comes with these intimate, real life stories can make things rather emotional during production time.
“Well you can definitely do a lot of parallels to emphasize what effect things that are going on in the real world have on others,” she said. “Depending on the type of writing that you’re doing, say for poetry, it can be even a direct attack on someone, so it gets pretty heated.”