by Nancy Garcia
Karen Zurita stood at the podium reciting her award-winning poem about her birthdays when she was a child. The audience took in her nostalgic words in both Spanish and English as they flipped through their books, trying to follow along.
“This is the first time my work has been published so it means a lot,” Zurita said.
Zurita, a graduate student in her third year, was one of the many creators who received an award for their work at this year’s Toyon Multilingual Journal of Literature and Art release party March 11 at Humboldt State University (HSU).
The annual release party was held at HSU’s Kate Buchanan Room to celebrate the 65th volume. The room was packed full of students, faculty and award recipients. Attendees were able to pick up their complimentary copy of Toyon, enjoy some refreshments, and listen to award recipients recite and explain their work.
Founded in 1954, the student-run publication strives for social and environmental justice, unity and diversity. This year’s issue had an emphasis on migration and challenging the idea of borders.
Theressa Lopez, sophomore and co-organizer of the event, believes publications haven’t always been equitable so publications like Toyon give people a voice.
“The publishing industry as a whole is kind of like a gatekeeping institution in a way, not everybody gets to tell their stories,” Lopez said.
As poetry editor, Lopez takes part in the magazine’s selection process, deciding which pieces will be published.
Noemi Maldonado, a freshman business major, was interested in the spoken word of the evening. Maldonado also appreciated the fact that Toyon is a multilingual publication.
“If we really want to understand people — get to know them, know their identity, who they are, why they came, their story, their family — I feel like we have to start with their language because people are more comfortable with someone that knows how to speak their language,” Maldonado said.
Toyon publishes works in both Spanish and English and accepts translations from any other language. Toyon became a multilingual publication in 2015 but there wasn’t as much emphasis on multilingual works like there is now.
Despite the fact that Maldonado had no previous knowledge of what Toyon was, she thought that the release party was interesting and empowering for the community. As a writer herself, Maldonado also became interested in potentially joining the Toyon staff next year.
Students who wish to join Toyon can join the Toyon club by registering for English 460 or English 461. For people who want to submit their work, the editorial staff accepts submissions year-round and each issue closes on Sep. 30. All submissions are considered for Toyon’s annual awards.
Although Zurita won the Fuerza award for spoken word for her poem, she admits that writing is a process.
“Little by little, I just kept working on that poem and I never forgot about it,” Zurita said. “I never left it behind and it just stayed with me and I kept adding and taking things off, just kept editing it until I got to exactly what I wanted it to say.”