Columbus, Miss.– Scary and exciting is part of Ponder Review’s Southern eclectic.

Ponder Review Cover

With Volume 5, Issue 1, Melissa Goodnight, one of nine editors for Mississippi University for Women’s student-run publication of the Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing program, feels she and her colleagues produced pages that “carry a pained restlessness, a haggard yearning for a better future that is as full of dystopian dissatisfaction as it is hope.”

The judges for the 2021 Recognizing Excellence in Art and Literary Magazine (REALM) Award felt the same way.

Last month, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) recognized Ponder Review for superior achievement in its annual competition, which featured 209 entries from throughout the United States, Canada, Virgin Islands and American schools abroad.

“I am very proud of Ponder Review,” said Dr. Brandy Wilson, an assistant professor of English and creative writing who has served as the faculty adviser for Ponder Review since 2018. “I have had the privilege of working with several classes of our talented graduate students who sift through submissions, carefully and thoughtfully select the work we publish, and build, create and promote each issue.”

Ponder Review, which was introduced in the spring of 2017, publishes fiction, flash fiction, nonfiction, poetry, short plays, new media and visual art twice a year. The W’s Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing program focuses on fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction and playwriting. It also offers courses in new media, translation and magazine production.

Goodnight, Jessica Calvert, Rebekah Devine, Patricia Evans, Sarah Karowski, Hannah Madonna, Lauren Ostrander, Lauren Rhoades and Madison Rhodes worked as editors for the award-winning project.

Since it is a part of the low-residency program, the editors for Ponder Review change each semester.

Goodnight, who spent four semesters on the staff at Ponder Reviewand is a graduate student in the MFA program, said the class is more of an internship and is open to any and all MFA students. She said the editors of the magazine are always looking for work “that haunts us when we turn the page” and “the kind of stories that sort of stay with you for days.”

Sarah Miller, a program coordinator with the NCTE, said a designation of superior is a high achievement, especially when you consider the difficult circumstances in creating anything like this during a pandemic.

One of the judges who analyzed Ponder Review, said, “Love the magazine! The artwork is beautiful. The letter from the editors was excellent! Fantastic content and variety in rhetoric — from plays to creative nonfiction — poetry in forms and personal pieces. Keep that variety!”

Goodnight admitted there was apprehension when she entered Ponder Review into the contest. She said MFA students are familiar with that feeling because they know how contributors feel when they submit their work. Now, she and the editors can share the accomplishment of a successful submission and an award-winning publication.

“We were thrilled to get the news because it’s validating in a way we didn’t even know we needed,” Goodnight said. “All our hard work, and it is hard work putting a literary magazine together in a low-residency MFA program where every editor sits in a different location, paid off for us and we are exceptionally proud. It has made us excited to enter more contests.”

Goodnight thanked everyone at The W for their support because she said every MFA program doesn’t have a literary magazine. Without Ponder Review, she said she and the other students would not have had the opportunity to learn the publishing side of things. 

Goodnight said a virtual reading from Issue 5.1 is planned for this semester. She also said submissions are being accepted for Issue 6.1, which will be published in the spring. Submissions are made through Submittable.

“We are always looking for great stories, poems, essays, art and plays,” Goodnight said. “We are one of a handful of literary magazines that publishes short plays, and we are currently accepting 10-minute plays for our second-annual 10:4 Tenn Playwriting Contest. This contest is an homage to Tennessee Williams and was successful and fun for our staff last year.”

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 Letter from the Editors:

As we step back to survey the content of this tenth issue of Ponder Review, we are struck both by its resonances with previous issues and by its departures. Amid thematic continuity, we sense a change in timbre.

One editor described Ponder as “southern eclectic,” and we find the shoe fits particularly well for this issue. The South is our home base, and we love pieces that explore traditionally southern images like nature and family in a progressive light. At the same time, our storytellers come from all over and represent a spectrum of human experience beyond our southern roots.

Vol. 5, Issue 1 of Ponder is no different in this respect. Our writers and artists hail from Mississippi all the way to Athens, Greece. Their pieces present us with a slice of life from their own geographic and social locales, drawing us into their imaginative landscapes and inviting us to slow down and let ourselves be riveted by the tiny details of the everyday. We continue to see an emphasis on the grit of nature, and wrestlings with both familial and religious legacies. One woman’s meditation on pines becomes a portal to her childhood. Another woman reckons with queer identity and internalized homophobia from her religious background. A native Philadelphian with Chinese ancestry invites us into the liminal spaces of her heritage via a portrait of Hong Kong.

At the same time, the zeitgeist ushered in by the global pandemic lingers. While this is not surprising, it is profound—these pages carry a pained restlessness, a haggard yearning for a better future that is as full of dystopian dissatisfaction as it is hope. While some pieces focus on marking the past and present as spaces of trauma and beauty—sometimes both at once— others wish to mark the future, delineating the rhythms and movements that could be.

One artist featured in this issue describes her work as “exploring the transformational power of weaving together related and unexpected mediums.” Likewise, we hope this volume, woven of many voices, both related and unexpected, can serve as an exploration of the transformational power of art, and remind us that we all inhabit a shared world. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it is that we are each part of a larger ecosystem, and our destinies are linked.


The Editors