“Forum” student magazine invigorates passion for literature

Alison Ruthbarry, Poetry Editor of the City College Forum Magazine, reads to a literary crowd at Brainwash Cafe in San Francisco on Nov. 20, 2011. BETH LABERGE / THE GUARDSMAN

By Lulu Orozco

The Guardsman

Forum, the City College literary magazine, hosted an open mic reading at the Brainwash Cafe on Nov. 20. Students from the literary magazine class came together for a reading of new and favorite writing samples that included short stories, poetry and essays.

The open mic literary reading was an uncensored event. There were no time restrictions for any individual readers, and authors were free to read whatever they wanted, in any style they felt appropriate.

With this open format the readings ranged from those in a loud, soulful rasping voice, a sad melancholy tone, a free-style rap to a shy, yet powerful voice tuned up a notch.

No single theme dominated the night and the stories told ranged from those of zombies and tragic Muni-bus rides, heartbreaks and birthday cakes, to a child’s conversation with his father on imagination versus reality.

“An open-mic can be excruciating, you have to respect your audience and try not to bore them, although I didn’t try to read anything too risky,” said poetry editor Alison Ruth Barry.

Barry read a nonfiction piece and two poems, including one politely titled, “Hot Skins,” that fired up the risqué in her listeners’ imaginations. She ended her reading with a debut piece on  bittersweet thoughts of past loves.

One reader spontaneously took the stage and performed an ad-lib style flow that expressed his feelings on matters of creativity, hidden fear and self expression. “Let your creativity flow, get over your inhibitions and shine,” was Ra-Ta Khensu-Ra’s message to the audience.

Every reader brought a different kind of force to the stage. They reminded their listeners that the passion for literary journals and books is not dead. It is still manifested by these literary magazine students reading and writing on a winter Sunday night so their voices are shared and heard in the community.

Forum Magazine Resurrected

The Forum magazine at City College was first established in 1937 and has maintained its tradition of having the entire magazine run by and for students.

“Literary magazines are vital, it’s amazing to see the expressions of the students and staff when they get their hands on a copy of the magazine and see their work published inside,” said creative writing instructor and literary magazine advisor Jennifer Brych.

The literary magazine class fell by the wayside a few years ago — abandoned and given little attention by students. But a few years ago it began to make its comeback and has been resurrected once more at City College.

“Certain groups bring in different talents and interests,” said professor John Isles, instructor for the Literary Magazine class. “When they bring this talent to class and to the magazine it becomes a big push.”

This semester alone Forum has organized three open mic readings at local San Francisco cafes in the Mission district and SOMA, such as Kaleidoscope, Cafe la Boheme and the Brainwash Cafe.

“Since we’ve revived the magazine and class, we have always let the students run the magazine. They choose and edit all of the content, and students in the graphics department do the layout,” said Brych.

Since its birth the Forum magazine has had an open submission policy, accepting the many voices of City College students, alumni, faculty and staff. The spotlight is also shared with some of the most influential members of the Bay Area literary community of writers and artists, people such as Benjamin Bac Sierra and Alan Kaufman.

Although students are only permitted to take the class a maximum of three times for school credit, they are encouraged to remain a part of Forum magazine and continue on as club members.

Forum is accepting submissions for spring 2012 — the next issue — by email at or by U.S. mail to Jen Sullivan Brych, English Department, 50 Phelan Avenue, SF CA 94112.

The Literary Magazine class, English 14, is also open for students next semester.

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