With archives dating back to 1920, The Cauldron is a magazine and student-organization with a long legacy. Although the literary and visual arts magazine has undergone important changes since that time, it has remained consistent in publishing Kalamazoo College students’ poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, as well as representative pieces of visual art.
The journal’s aim is to showcase the broad diversity of student voices that compose this campus, voices that grapple with a wide range of personal, political and aesthetic concerns. But instead of resting on the magazine’s lengthy history, Jordan Meiller K’16 and Omari Oliver K’16, Co-Editors-in-Chief, question how that aim is being met right now.
“The Cauldron is an [excellent] publication, but as an organization we’ve been fairly static,” said Meiller. Both editors are committed to making The Cauldron more visible to the rest of campus and getting more people involved with the literary community at K.
To increase their visibility, the editors are trying to maintain a presence all year round with workshops and readings.
“We want to get our name out there, so that there aren’t sophomores, juniors, and even seniors who have never heard of us,” Meiller said. “We want to give the editorial staff, who have historically only been involved for a few weeks in January, another way to contribute and apply their skills.”
Hadley Harrison K’16, Nonfiction Editor, led The Cauldron’s first workshop on Thursday, October 29. With a dozen students gathered in the Olmsted Room, she facilitated a conversation about how non-fiction is a broad genre that can celebrate writing in different creative styles and flavors, which we might notice most in memoirs and, to some extent, poems.
“The Cauldron takes visual art, fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, too—which a lot of people don’t know about. In the past, we have published short excerpts from really good pieces of journalism and all sorts of essays,” said Harrison. After reading a selection from “A Small Place” by Jamaica Kincaid, she guided the discussion into an exploration of the deliberate use of perspective in nonfiction writing and how a particular voice can draw people into a piece or separate them from it.
The workshop also featured time for students to write freely for ten minutes, and although everyone had the option to share afterward, nobody was pressured to do so.
“On a core level, writing is very much for yourself. The act of sitting down with your thoughts and putting them on paper can be really uncomfortable and terrifying sometimes, but it can be really worth it,” Harrison said. “Social media has, in a lot of ways, replaced journaling so that fewer people even write in diaries anymore, but there are times when it is more important to delve into what you aren’t sharing on social media and share it with yourself. Everyone could benefit from a little introspective writing.”
Harrison mentioned that hosting workshops is one of the ways in which The Cauldron is making an effort to expand more outside of the English department. At her workshop, there were English majors in attendance, but there were also students representing Anthropology/Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy, Biology, and undeclared majors.
“We find that a lot of students come to K and aren’t aware that [The Cauldron] is a great way for them to get their writing published,” Harrison said. “There are so many great writers who exist outside of the English department, and I wish more of them would submit their work to get some different perspectives out there.”
As senior editors, Oliver and Meiller intend to stir things up some more by organizing a poetry and/or fiction writing workshop in the near future and having at least one interactive reading at the unveiling ceremony in the spring, designed to honor the past issues of the journals as well as to give people who might otherwise be too shy to read the option of reading another student’s published work.
“People love to go to performance events, but [tend to] forget that writing can also be fun,” Oliver explained. “After sharing their work at the end of a workshop, people are more inclined to work on their piece further, and eventually submit. “
Oliver and Meiller also aim to change the way students interact with The Cauldron physically.
“A huge first step we took this quarter was simplifying our submissions process,” Oliver said. With the help of Submissions Editor Lauren Perlaki K’17, Oliver and Meiller developed an online submission form.
Furthermore, Meiller and Oliver are contemplating the possibility of making The Cauldron a digital journal that students can download online in addition to the paper publications that are circulated every spring.
Curious? Interested? Inspired?
Submit to The Cauldron at thecauldron.submittable.com. Poetry, Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Visual Art pieces are welcome. Submissions are open now through the beginning of Winter Quarter. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.