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New editorial staff revamps and revitalizes Rune


The MIT Journal of Arts and Letters.

By Ann Ames
Arts Editor

The call has been made for submissions to Rune, The MIT Journal of Arts and Letters. Under a team of motivated editors, the new-and-improved journal promises an exciting exhibition of literary and visual arts.

MIT seems a difficult place to keep an artistic journal alive. Indeed, Rune has suffered a troubled past. Battling disorganization and the effects of periodically waning interest, students have struggled to stabilize Rune since the mid-1970s. Only 14 volumes have been published during that time.

Current editor Albert T. Kim '94 feels this is mostly because of poor publicity and distribution. Last year, for example, 650 copies of the journal were printed and sold for $3 each in locations unlikely to draw much attention. Some were sold at a booth in Lobby 10, but others were sent to places like the MIT Museum Shop -- places that get plenty of student traffic but are not likely to attract hungry art hounds.

The behind-the-scenes organization was not much better. Publication of 14Rune resulted almost entirely from the efforts of Leelila Strogov '93 and Tom Yu '95. The year before that, the journal was not published at all.

But even with these difficulties, Rune is impressive. Included genres vary depending on submissions, but always encompass the general areas of prose, poetry, and graphic arts. There is even a sestina, "Dark Stream," by David Duis '91, in 13Rune. In lines like "That afternoon, we were deep in our fishing when the sky/blossomed bruised clouds, shadowing the deep/holes where the trout hid...." Duis brings full color to his page. With "I loved to pretend I was a fish,/looking up through flowing stained glass at my father/as he cast, his flyline arcing across the sky," he forged the first crook of a link between his own loneliness and that of the fish trembling in the deep.

This year's Rune will bring together some obvious choices for publication -- those already honored publicly -- and many that have never been seen before. The editors have publicized the journal through the grapevine since October, sending e-mail to student groups, approaching departments within the humanities for names of talented students, or just talking to people they know. In addition, posters requesting submissions have been displayed around campus for the last two weeks. Editor Gargi Patel '94 said the response so far has been very good.

Other changes are being made, as well. The "graphic art" department has become "visual art," and its definition extends beyond traditional boundaries to include such works as video stills and musical pieces. One-act plays are being accepted, and poetry in a foreign language is encouraged if the author provides an English translation. The intention is to open the journal up to as many artists in the community as possible, to create "a forum for artists who are engineers," as editor David Zapol '95 said.

Their greatest challenges now are financial., especially since the new volume will be distributed free of charge on the black newsstands around campus. Fund-raising is going well, however, and the group hopes to receive a grant from the Council for the Arts.

Most importantly, the editors are excited about Rune and the direction they are giving it. They have dispensed with bureaucracy -- everyone on staff bears the simple title, "editor" -- in order to achieve their visionary goals: they intend both to encourage young people to get involved now and continue in the future, and to leave a legacy of professionalism. And they have truly focused on serving MIT's artistic community."There are pockets of surprises at MIT," Kim said. "That's why this medium needs to exist." If subsequent editors continue to feed the life that Rune's current staff has breathed into it, this journal should be around for a long time.