Free expression of thought, fiction, poetry and art on college campuses always inspires the university communities on and around campus. Each spring the free 'zines funded by academic departments provide windows into what's on students' minds besides hoops, hops and beach weekends. In the spring of 1965, a group of brave, creative students at North Carolina College in Durham started a magazine, Ex Umbra (Latin for "out of the shadows"), that had a mission statement laying out why free literary magazines can nurture campus life. "The staff agreed that the creative students were too much in the shadows, and that they needed to be brought into the light where their fellow students could recognize and enjoy their work," wrote the editors. "The staff also agreed that creative students at predominately Negro colleges throughout the South were in the same situation, that too much good talent was going unrecognized." The campus literary talents of North Carolina Central University continue to shine in Ex Umbra. Reflecting the times, an online edition debuted two years ago.
At N.C. State, when they're not instant messaging each other, students keep an active online dialogue going in their monthly e-zine, Americana: A Journal of Ideas. "Writing and artwork are some of the most effective means we have of transmitting our thoughts and feelings," reads their mission statement. The 'zine publishes articles on every subject. ("Our articles intentionally skirt the boundaries of objectivity," claim the editors.) Click on your flavor to browse and feel the campus pulse, from Features to News to Humor.
The corners of the Bulls' Head Bookstore overflow with free 'zines covering all manner (and lack, thereof) of print interests. "Plato? Shakespeare? I'd rather read about lesbians," screams the Carolina Review, while boUNCe just published their satirical "Don't Fail Finals" issue. Cellar Door is the best free mag on the Chapel Hill campus. This slim, nicely bound student literary magazine is a treasure. "This year's staff seemed especially talented," says faculty advisor Michael McFee. "I pretty much got out of their way and they really came up with something." He shakes his head while describing the exhilaration he felt as an undergraduate seeing his own first published poem in the Cellar Door. Where Jill McCorkle, Will Blythe, and John Russell's work once appeared we now find Kimberly O'Connor, Angela Lea, Courtney Jones, Kathryn Reklis and Emily Matchar. Remember their names.
Over at Methodist Flats, a new magazine with the title Mental Floss is being published by a group of former Duke students. This alert, humorous freebie has brazen ambitions. They're already pulling in national contributors and advertising accounts, and the premiere issue pushed all the hot buttons on the cover. Above the masthead, their motto reads "feel smart again," bordered by pitches for the stories, "Computers made of DNA" and "An Undercover History of Sex." Ex Umbra celebrates their 36th birthday, while Cellar Door just hit 26. Here's hoping Mental Floss will keep us chuckling and engaged for just as long.
Find Ex Umbra online at www.nccu.edu/campus/exumbra; Americana at americana.ncsu.edu; Mental Floss at mentalflossmag.com; contact Cellar Door at Cellar Door, Carolina Union, CB #5210 Box 23, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-5210.