“The Mockingbird” magazine takes flight

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Photo by Peter Burleigh

Student literary magazines are a long-running tradition for undergraduate students at the University of Dallas, dating back to the 1960s. With its first monthly print publication released Friday, Sept. 4,”The Mockingbird” is a fresh revitalization of this tradition.

The magazine’s mission statement, found on the group’s GoFundMe page, states: “The primary concern of the Mockingbird is the imitation and defense of Western tradition as it is manifested at UD. Imitation is preferred to innovation since, in the intellectual life, ‘there is only the fight to recover what has been lost / And found and lost again and again.’”

The team behind the magazine is largely made up of UD seniors. Brian Jones, Joe Piescik, John Paul Elfelt, Tim Peruzzi and others are involved in the editing, curating, printing and publishing of the Mockingbird.

In the first page of the magazine, a letter from the editors addresses the question: “Why start a magazine?” Most specifically, the creators of the magazine saw a need for a place where members of the UD community, as a continuum of scholars, can discuss what affects the University.

“This magazine will allow students, faculty, and alumni to write for each other, expressing thoughts and opinions about what UD is, and what it should be,” writes Brian Jones in the magazine’s letter from the editors.

According to Joe Piescik, the advancement officer for “The Mockingbird,” they are purely a student magazine rather than a literary magazine.

“The real theme of the magazine isn’t literary, the theme is UD,” said Piescik. “We’re not confined to any genre, we’ll publish politics, literature, classics, poetry, anything. We’re here so that University of Dallas students have a place to be heard and to expand on traditions.”

Piescik said that he was inspired by undergraduate student magazines of the past, which can be found in the UD historical archives. One particular magazine, “Kerygma,” is full of years of UD history, and has very familiar names such as Eileen Gregory, John Alvis, Robert Dupree and Louise and Donald Cowan, within its pages.

“These people are the fabric of UD,” said Piescik. “It was really inspiring to see University of Dallas undergraduates from the 60s to the 90s writing about their culture, which is now our culture. We’re not alone at this university, these current 1,500 undergrads. It’s the people who came before, the people who come after us, the people who are here now.”

The letter from the editors states that they named themselves “Mockingbird” for several reasons: “(1) The Northern Mockingbird is the state bird of Texas; (2) Mockingbirds are beautiful (especially in flight); (3) satire (a form of mocking) is an art largely lost in America; and, (4) most importantly, we hope to say new things by imitating tradition just as Mockingbirds create their own unique song by simply weaving together the songs of other birds.”

Dr. Susan Hanssen, professor and chair of the history department, is the faculty advisor for “The Mockingbird.” According to Hanssen, the team behind the magazine was inspired by English Professor Dr. Gregory Roper’s popular class based on his widely-distributed book, “The Writer’s Workshop: Imitating Your Way to Better Writing.”

“Like the Mockingbird who imitates other bird calls, they want to cut their teeth as undergraduate writers by imitating the classics,” Hanssen said.

The magazine asks all members of the UD community to contribute, be it through donating or submitting writings or artwork for publication. 

“The Mockingbird has gotten its initial funding from Student Foundation, a long-standing alumni-founded group devoted to preserving UD traditions,” Hanssen said. The magazine also receives funds via GoFundMe.

“The trick to success in a publication like this is getting the fine art of humor right,” said Hanssen. “To make fun of the things we all have in common because we’re human.” 

The upcoming month’s edition of “The Mockingbird” will be centered around drinking and the drinking culture at UD — the virtues and vices, the charm and real danger of alcohol. The magazine is eager to receive any contributions from members of the UD community, which can be sent to udmockingbird@gmail.com

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