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The University Archives will be closed on Monday and Tuesday (October 29-30), due to Hurricane Sandy. We're ready for the storm to be over and look forward to answering your questions about Drexel history on Wednesday, October 31. Stay safe and dry!


The Archives staff are pleased as punch with the newly restored Lower Level of W. W. Hagerty Library. Stop by the Archives to learn about the history of Drexel, research historic newspapers, yearbooks and documents, or just check out the fancy new carpet.

Our sound recording booth is installed and almost ready to go. Students, faculty and alumns, we encourage you to tell us about your Drexel experience in an oral history interview. If you'd like to share your story with future generations, please contact us to arrange a time to record and interview in the new Tales of Dragons sound booth.

Hagerty Library's Lower Level on the first day Fall term 2012The Archives and new sound recording booth


Although the Lower Level of Hagerty is still under renovation, the Archives is open weekday afternoons from 1-5 and mornings by appointment. Please contact us to arrange a time to visit and explore our holdings of Drexel historical material or our rare book and special collections. We look forward to seeing you.


The Archives will be closed to the public today as we clean up from a weekend flood.  There was no damage to our collections and we will reopen as soon as we can.  You can still reach us by phone or email.


Exams are over and break has begun!  The University Archives won't be open during our normal schedule (weekdays 1-5).  If you want to use our collections or do research about Drexel history, please contact us to schedule an appointment.

We'll return to our usual schedule on Monday, June 25.  Enjoy the break!

AJ Drexel Statue, n.d.undated photograph of students beside the AJ Drexel statue, by Anthony B. Wood

 


Maya: Then, Now, and the All That Is All

By Martha Cornog

In Hinduism, Maya is the deity perpetuating the illusion that any part of the universe is unique from the rest of it. A "Maya Sutra" in the 1967 issue declares, "The ancients…advised that we should hold Maya, choose one small aspect of the vastness that is Maya and study it, meditate on it until it becomes a part of us, then continue with a second aspect and so on…. [Thus you, the reader, can] enjoy what you like in Maya, after all Maya is for you, created for you, to do with as you like, whether for amusement or serious study."

But even more broadly, the selections in Maya represent another aspect of the part/whole illusion. They dance out from the passions of their creators, dance out from the culture of Drexel from the 1960s through the present, dance out and reflect America of the last forty-plus years as did the previous Drexel literary magazines all reflect their own eras.

And forty years crams in a rich, full diversity, brimful with nuances, stories, plans and dreams and loves, less gloom and doom and more humor. Polly Semia lives here.

Poetry now becomes much more prevalent than in the earlier literary magazines. In the 1967 Maya, several poems comment satirically on poetry itself, on the dilemma of being assigned to apply literary criticism to poetry and to understand—one hopes—what a poem means. One Maya writer has some doubt about that, imagining that the poet boasts:  "You can all guess, but only I Know" ("On Patches on Asses"). Another declares that "Poetry belongs to everyone who reads it…but more to those who write it" ("Reflections on Poetry").

In 1967, Haiku appear, like this puckish example (untitled, Susan Oster):

Study while you eat

And peanut butter leaves its

Mark on history

Themes of resisting conformity appear occasionally:

Never before

in the anals of man [sic]

has he taught a salmon

to go in a pan (untitled, Diamond, 1973)

But far more common come short pieces about loves, couplings, and encounters. The 1968 cover features a sculpture of a couple embracing, perhaps coitally, while "Let Us Hum a Hymn" celebrates the poet's attraction to a particular mister. Raucous and slangy, the 1973 "Blam! Blam! Blam" nails a man's frustration at finding that his girl has left him.

For the 1986 Maya, someone must have assigned students to write a short memoir of a real or near-real experience. One writer finds himself in the Philippines, driving inland with an island-based buddy and running into local insurgents with guns ("A Drive in the Country"). Another, preparing for college, finds a necklace sent to her grandmother with a note: "Remember that no matter where you go, you are loved" ("Wherever You Go"). Still another student climbs up on the trestle bridge over Market Street and hops a freight car for a short distance, breaking an arm while jumping off.

1992 brought many more love poems. "Oh I wish I were your pillow," says one yearning poet ("Your Pillow), similar to Romeo's murmur: "O that I were a glove upon that hand/That I might touch that cheek." Two stars in love form a nova ("Star Love").

By 2007, more informal, raw poems echo the pounding beats of rap music:

He's dangling from the cross like a Hennessy nightmare

Rocking back and fourth [sic] like a sex change

Screwing in a tricked out, gasoline wheelchair

Chewing on the counter like a polyp at the Met's game ("The Prophet in the Gutter")

Nature themes, always present at least occasionally in all of the literary magazines, take a turn towards environmental concerns:

Man often seems to be like an ingrown

hair, festering until nature will brace

itself for pain as we pop from the land,

no more important that [than] the scar you have

from a boil you have burst… ("Polemic Against Man")

The 2010 issue of Maya adopted a button theme. Wrote the editor, "Maya issues are like a cloth in which we sew different types of colors and buttons together to represent the larger diversity of Drexel University." This issue included winners from the second annual writing contest.  In one honorable mention, the poet despairs of ever writing poetry himself, due to the skill of "Mr. Bukowski" at turning tragedy into prolific poetry—and into fame:

Frankly

A single page from my suburban lifestyle

Will never match the volumes from your personal hell ("Dear Mr. Bukowski").

In the winning poem, a Molly Bloomish sort of poet writes about turning twenty-five, "a quarter-life crisis because my heart has used half its beats" (Mockingbird Narrates the Months of My 24th Year").

As of now, 2012, Maya has become a force on the web and a locus for events that include Haiku Off and Open Mics. Declares its Facebook page:

Maya is Drexel's undergrad lit mag stew, where writing, art, and photography collide and enhance the flavors of one another…. We bake cupcakes. And breathe fire…. We are looking to develop our brand name across campus and the city of Philadelphia, while promoting literacy, fun and creativity one day at a time!

Writing becomes cool, not stuffy, messy and interesting, not sterile and perfect. Indeed, a nonfiction piece, "Parapet for a Pauper," raises the dangers of idolizing perfection and ends with a couplet:

One's faults exist to be harnessed, and when successfully employed

Man rests in true triumph, perfection destroyed

Other pieces echo an imperfection theme as well. In one poem, a 30-year-married couple has buried three children, all veterans killed in active duty,  and heads for Las Vegas for a new beginning ("Spring"). A short story introduces an automaton that survives a revolution and its master's execution, only to fall to looters as salvageable scrap ("Travis").

Actually, "lit mag stew" is not a bad description for much of the 2012 issue, which excels in concatenated surreal imagery in both poems and prose. I think of Alice, reacting to "Jabberwocky":

"It seems very pretty," she said when she had finished it, "but it's rather hard to understand!" (You see she didn't like to confess, ever to herself, that she couldn't make it out at all.) "Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas — only I don't exactly know what they are!  However, somebody killed something: that's clear, at any rate—" (Through the Looking Glass)

So I wrote a poem myself, "On First Looking into a Recent Maya":

Poems go

Where lives can't

Where my mind won't go sometimes.

What do they mean?

My head filled with ideas, like Lewis Carroll's Alice's

Only I don't exactly know what they are, either.

However, somebody loved somebody, that's clear

Somebody is somewhere, is doing something, is saying something

The poets, the poems know what they mean.

I'm glad they do.


To mark the Libraries' current exhibition, Inventing the Page: Student Literary Magazines at Drexel, the Archives' blog is featuring a series of essays about past literary magazines by Drexel alumna and Archives volunteer, Martha Cornog. The exhibition runs until June 11, 2012, on the first floor of W.W. Hagerty Library.

Between the Fog and the Desert: What the Gargoyle Sees Isn’t Pretty

By Martha Cornog

By the 1960s, love and war had faded as dominant literary themes, and instead loomed the disaffection and confusion of a generation reeling from the Beat writers but not yet washed by the fragrant waves of '60s hedonism. Drexel’s third literary magazine, Gargoyle, ran from 1961 to 1966. Perhaps the title was inspired by Lawrence Durrell's The Black Book, for an unattributed quotation from that novel appears on the verso of Gargoyle's volume 5 title page, including the line:

The isolation of a gargoyle hung over a sleeping city.

With war and love, one can keep score. One win or one loses, and one is happy or sad. But Gargoyle peered into darknesses that had few winnings or losings or even any game at all. Rare in these magazines is a sunny outcome or neat resolution. Connections of any kind rarely lead to happy endings or even happy beginnings or middles, and humor has faded. This was Drexel 's "Howl" as per Allen Ginsberg, but without the graphic language or any of the raucous satire of such musical groups as the Fugs, which came later.

The first year's selections ranged over a fable about a leprechaun outwitting a gold-seeker, an angst-laden meditation around "The Hunger and the Dream" to travel to the moon, and a philosophical justification for the outcast who pursues his convictions: "Man must joyfully accept the struggle and give his utmost from his own viewpoint in order to create any lasting, human good" ("Human Dignity"). A thoughtful essay lays out the case against censorship, though material dubbed "disturbing" may seem to offer obstacles:

We are in the position of the little boy who was leading his sister up a mountain path. "Why," she complained, "…it’s all rocky and bumpy."

"Yes," replied the little boy, "The bumps are what you climb on." ("Petrified Truth")

 

Gargoyle cover

 

In the second yearly anthology, "Township of the Dead" unpacks a graveyard rather as if T.S. Eliot were writing his own version of Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology. In fact, the opening line, "Let us go then…You and I" evokes Eliot’s classic of anomie, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Another Gargoyle poet considers himself without character, feeling himself swept away by group-think and social pressure ("Introspection"). In a homier example, a story tells of a youngster working persistently to get a ballplayer's autograph, but he loses his prize when his hero neglects to return the child’s autograph book ("The Autograph").

By year three, the editor reported, perhaps testily, perhaps in frustration, that "Many students feel that the material appearing in our magazine is far above their heads." Perhaps the bulk of Drexel students had more upbeat and less nuanced views about life. But Gargoyle's content continued to track existential despair, as from a poet facing a trip by sea with uncertain outcomes, between thick fog, collapsing wharf, and a stormy ocean: "The dock is crumbling… O God! Where shall I go?" ("Decision").

Another poet sees herself tossed between two empty worlds, one fog and one desert, seeking "The Whisper and the Gleam" of Something Else (vol. 5). More concretely, a third poet mourns:

The search for beauty

in a sad world

Where neon, napalm, hunger

and the broken glass of humanity

Shout savage chips and splinters at each other

Then go home and cry

Lonely in the pillow ("Cause and Effect 1965," vol. 6)

 

Yet a tempered optimism does shine forth at times, as in "My America Poem" (vol. 4), ending:

 

…so

I thanked God for America

Who is becoming more and more realistic

Who is rejecting Moloch

Who is still inhaling cancer

Who is giving of itself

Who is still sometimes bigoted and dishonest

Who is still to learn many things

Who is also the land of freedom

Who is yet a land of prejudice

Who is still young

And who has time…

 

And a positively Austen-esque love poem concludes with puckish resignation:

 

And yet you smile. Oh how can you foresee,

The trap I meant for you has captured me. ("Cajoled," vol . 5)

 

Gargoyle back cover

 

Through its six issues, Gargoyle lived up to its name. But when Gargoyle ceased publication, Maya had already begun, still continuing today after more than thirty years' worth of issues. With time, successive generations of students, and a more publicly diverse U.S. cultural scene, we would perhaps expect Maya’s content to be more diverse as even its polysemic name might imply.


To mark the Libraries' current exhibition, Inventing the Page: Student Literary Magazines at Drexel, the Archives' blog continues its series of essays about past literary magazines by Drexel alumna and Archives volunteer, Martha Cornog. Inventing the Page is on display at W. W. Hagerty Library until June 11.

All's Unfair in Love and War: The Roaring Twenties, the Depression, and World War II in Drexerd

by Martha Cornog

A wonderfully fetching and fashionable young flapper decorates the cover of the second issue of Drexerd, a Drexel literary magazine running from 1921 through 1942. Enthusiastically serving up mostly humorous material at first, a majority of the longer stories in the earlier years give glimpses of romantic rivalries and conquests with a lighthearted touch. The Great War was over at last, and frivolity as well as coquetry rushed in to soothe the hangovers of battle, if only aggravate the hangovers from Prohibition's bootleg booze.
Lexerd cover, 1924

In one early story, a wily young woman discourages her parents' choice of a rich swain by burning his dinner, sneaking out afterwards to marry her more modestly employed beloved. In another, a shy but talented basketball player finds himself the brunt of a more aggressive player's bullying until the shyer student does a chivalrous favor for the bully's sister – and attracts the affections of the sister herself. The numerous short selections include this perky comparison between boyfriends:

An awful bore is Felix Rice.

I really think he's made of ice.

For when he calls on me at nights

He sits away from me

Like              this,

He talks of golf, Baby Ruth, and fights.

 

While I adore young Phil McCoy;

He fills my heart with heavenly joy,

For when with me he has a date

He cuddles up quite close

Likethis,

And though I'm dying for a kiss

And tho' his words may be remiss

I'll say he sure can osculate.

But by 1931, the cover shows a well-dressed man buying a wormy apple from a bedraggled apple-seller. Frivolity foundered when the stock market crashed in 1929, and now even lighthearted stories include allusions to the Depression. A rich coffee baron reminisces about how he made his fortune as an impoverished college student, running a chain of community coffee shops to make money on the side. By chance, a staggeringly drunk couple stops in on their way to get married. Thinking the match possibly a rash mistake, the future baron and his partner sober them up with their strongest brew, and one of them calls the girl's father. The coffee works, and soon the couple erupts in boisterous argument, capped by the arrival of the father. Cursing her would-be fiancé, the young woman flings herself with melodramatic tears into father's arms. The father is so appreciative afterwards that he approves a match between his daughter and the baron's partner as well as backing the pair financially for expansion of their coffee business.
Drexerd cover with dragon
At least a one engineering student must have joined the contributors to pen "An Engineer Speaks on Paul Revere," an amusing take-off on Paul Revere's ride in stand-up comic style. Another engineering student must have created the inventive retake on Beowulf, which establishes that Grendel and his mother were man-eating robots, commissioned by Beowulf himself as sham enemies to propel the supposed "hero" to fame and fortune. Could this be one of the earliest mentions of robotics in a Drexel student publication?

Science continues as a theme in the 1935 piece: "Elementary, My Dear Watson." Not about Sherlock Holmes, the very clever short sketch about the tempestuous marriage of Mae Bunsen and Sam Erlenmeyer puns on the names of numerous elements of the Periodic Table, with only the abbreviations appearing in the text, like this:

"It's S the best, I suppose,' he said, when one day during one of their quarrels he Pb with his right after she tried to Fe him out with one of the dining room chairs." (See translation at the bottom of the page.)

By now, the magazine included "Blue Notes," a column on noteworthy jazz and pop music recordings, and articles relating to Philadelphia theatre productions. A faculty member contributed an essay about the political apathy of too many U.S. youth, but that was due to change very soon and not for happy reasons. War was brewing across the oceans.

The April 1938 issue of Drexerd is in fact dedicated to war, that "age-old scourge of mankind, the third topic of every fraternity bull-session (the first and second being sex and religion, respectively)." The magazine's editors issued a call for opinions about the conflict and, potentially, American participation and published many responses. The editors did not hide their own reactions:

"We can see nothing to war but a very fancy form of madness…. To us the world 'war' does not mean a trained army, nor a country fighting for a great cause, nor a glorious death on a battlefield. It signifies a devastated land, a legalized mass murder, and bodies rotting on a battlefield; bodies of men whose last thoughts were not of happiness or beauty but probably a feeling of wonder at the joke fate had played by causing them to be born."

While many of Drexel's young men responded with duty-minded generalities about national security, the young women let loose with heart-breaking predictions:

"Boys – the boys that you and I go to school with—will go out and get shot down because we have men like Hitler who are mad for power. It is our generation that will suffer…. What good will our degrees do us then?"

"And to have the horrible feeling that they were killed by someone who didn't know them; mostly likely didn't want to kill them; covered his eyes when he aimed but unfortunately didn't miss."

Fiction and poetry in the issue picked up on the war theme as well.

By 1942, the Pearl Harbor bombing had brought the U.S. into the war, and a military leitmotif underlies the entire content, but with more of a "let's buck up and get on with it" air. A cartoon shows two ugly women luring a hunky male air raid warden into their home by purposely leaving all the lights blazing in the window during an air raid drill. (All residential lighting was supposed to be turned off during an air raid, so that enemy planes would not see lights on the ground to help them aim their bombs.)

But although the battle in Europe escalated, the battle of the sexes did not thereupon cease. Indeed, mention of male-female matters took on a sexier tinge, perhaps due to a last-chance mentality. In one humorous piece, Mama, Papa, and Baby Stork are comparing notes on how their day went. When it comes to his turn, Baby Stork says, "I've been across town scaring hell out of some of these high school kids." More of the gags revolve around intoxicants or sex or both, such as the exchange, presumably at a campus party or similar:

"What's your name?"

"I don't know, but I'm beautiful!"

Thus, it was Drexerd that saw and reflected how Drexel changed with the rest of the world into a community that feels almost contemporary, even though 1942 was seventy years ago. Before the first World War, an electric optimism pervaded the United States and its universities, caught up in the accomplishments of fast-developing industries and technology but without the full social understanding of what might come of these. Postwar industrial and banking success fueled the Roaring Twenties, but prosperity collapsed with the Great Depression. Technologies, science, and education turned war into a different, more global, and more dangerous experience, as played out in both World Wars, than had been the case before the twentieth century. Education, technology, commerce, and the calculus of desperation common in wartime changed the dance between men and women, heralding the so-called sexual revolution to come. Industrialization in the nineteenth century had led to vulcanized rubber, and the rubber condom. Latex was invented in 1920, with latex condoms soon to follow.

So what with love and war, both newly supported by the kinds of technology that led Anthony Drexel to found a university, everything about the world changed—and Drexerd saw it all. Slow to change, however, were race relations; and a very un-modern note is struck by the occasional "Rastus"-type jokes and stories, reflecting supposedly comic takes on African Americans. A revolution was coming in social acceptance of minorities, including Jews affected by the Holocaust, Native Americans, and immigrants of multiple ethnicities. And none too soon.

_______________

Translation:

"'It's sulfur (all for) the best, I suppose,' he said, when one day during one of their quarrels he lead with his right after she tried to iron him out with one of the dining room chairs." The names of the loving couple derive from chemistry laboratory stand-bys: the Bunsen burner and the Erlenmeyer flask.


To mark the Libraries' new exhibition, Inventing the Page: Student Literary Magazines at Drexel, the Archives' blog will feature a series of essays about past literary magazines by Drexel alumna and Archives volunteer, Martha Cornog. The new exhibition opens Wednesday, April 18, with a reception from 5-7 p.m. at Hagerty Library.

Echo of Things to Come: Drexel's First Literary Magazine

by Martha Cornog

"We propose to entertain and be entertained," wrote The Drexel Echo's fledgling editors, "to encourage and be encouraged, to be instructed, and, if possible, to instruct."

Drexel's first campus publication with literary content, Echo blossomed from the student body in 1907, a mere sixteen years after the institution was founded. By then, college literary magazines had become academic standbys. The Columbia Review claims to have been the first in the nation as of 1815, but then Columbia University itself was founded in 1754. The much older Harvard, first U.S. academic body as of 1636, dates its own Harvard Advocate magazine to 1866. So while ever so much younger, Drexel's Echo was certainly faster off the mark.

Actually, the monthly Echo resembles more an all-purpose campus magazine than a literary journal. While a handful of creative efforts—prose and poetry—open each issue, a "School Notes" section of news items follows with brief notes about class officers, faculty changes, news of the Library School, and the perennial sports updates. Reports on goings-on among student organizations and a jokes section close out the first issue. And on the back cover linger four paid advertisements: for a meat market, two photographers, and a sporting goods store.

Cover of the first issue of the Drexel Echo, 1907Cover of the first issue of the Drexel Echo, 1907

Let us compare with the last issue of Echo, five years later. In addition to the original components appear an editorial, an Alumni Notes feature, a full athletics section, several more pages of ads, and quite a few attractive, posed photos of student groups.

Still, at the moment we are looking at Echo mainly for its literary content. Though many pieces remain unsigned or credited only to initials, we get a sense of what Drexel students were writing about over a hundred years ago. A tall-tale from an innkeeper about a nearby precipice where a deranged hermit met his accidental doom reveals an expected fascination with adventure lurking just at the edge of normal life . A Dickens-like drama about street waifs scrambling for pennies flung by the well-fed audience of a sports match gives a glimpse of social consciousness directed to the have-nots lurking around the familiar ritual of college football.

A number of stories capture the mating dance in myriad forms, with an amused sense of too-much-experience. In one story recalling the sort of flirtatious verbal fencing perfected by Jane Austen, a study clique of gal-pals conspires for pseudonymous revenge upon a particularly offensive young alumnus, with his "eleven-foot-three of conceit, vanity and devilishness." Of course, the alumnus and the most outraged among the gal-pals find each other irresistible by the end.

Cover of the Drexel Echo, 1910Cover of the Drexel Echo, 1910

Throughout, a lively comedic sense permeates both prose and poetry. One junior engineer, for example, published a satiric poem about a water meter, compelled to confound its human keepers when unusual matter enters the water supply:

When it happens that a carcass of an infant alligator
Plays the mischief with my vitals in its efforts to get through,
I record the strange occurrence on my brass-bound indicator
By the fraudulent addition of a hundred feet or two.

How marvelous to turn up that persistent urban legend about alligators in the sewers within a 1908 Drexel literary magazine!


Each year the Archives prioritizes one or two areas of Drexel history to strengthen and develop our collections.  In 2012, those priorities are Athletics and Greek Life.  For that reason, we were especially delighted to receive a donation from alumnus Bernard Kurek that included the unusual Sigma Pi sleeping cap and ROTC drill team beret (both pictured below).  The Archives is working with other alumns to better preserve the history of fraternity and sorority life at Drexel, and objects like this are among the items that further that goal.  Do you have interesting items from your time at Drexel that you'd like to donate to the Archives so that we can preserve them for future generations?  Please contact us!

 

Sigma Pi cap and ROTC beretSigma Pi cap and ROTC beret


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