Review: ‘City’ works your emotions

By Rebecca Saffran
City Times

When the winners of “City Works 2007” gathered May 12 for their annual release party at City to read their work, I didn’t know whether to laugh, hang my head or cry.

Writers selected to perform that afternoon represented a range of moods experienced by San Diegans in the first decade of the 21st century. Despite entertaining stories of dentists, giants and ski slopes, the overall mood of the performers struck me as sad, serious, and sardonic.

According to “City Works 2007” writers, hope and possible happiness only follow something tragic: hope for love follows heartache; for peace follows conflict; for health follows illness, for clarity follows drugs and so on.

When the writers did find humor they found it in dark places. One might laugh but only because the alternative is to cry: Rosa Magdaleno’s character in Drop said she lost a best friend because “not everyone wanted to spend their lives getting drunk, high, laid, and dumped.”

In Feeling Self-important on My Way to the Mailbox, Eric Johnson read, “Sometimes walking to my curbside mailbox I ponder that one chance in hell that a passenger jet cruising overhead at an altitude I can barely fathom, will malfunction, and I, shuffling envelopes up the driveway, will see that flaming spiral hurtling toward me.” A jet flew overhead at that exact moment, almost muting his words.

Fellow presenters that afternoon included National Award Winner Sylvia Levinson, Featured Local Writer Jim Miller, Student Poetry Winner Jonna Peavey, and Student Prose Winner Michael Ferrill.

Presenters selected for publication included Allison Barnes, Rosa Magdaleno, David Bolduc, Zebulon Huset, June Cressy, Karen Stromberg, Nancy Cary, Eloy Chouza, James Choung, Ramon Estrada, David Walsh, Eric Johnson, Megan Webster, and Tomás Gayton.

Levinson was first featured in “City Works 1997,” said she began writing poetry in 1991. “It’s about finding just the right word. When that happens it’s wonderful,” she said. Even though Levinson presented poems rife with violence and dark humor she said, “Poetry has served me well and it makes me happy.”

Just as the performers varied in mood and scope so did the audience. Josie Armstead, tutor at City’s English Center noted the lack of stereotypical black berets and said, “I love seeing the mix of people here.” Most audience members consisted of fellow City students and faculty who published in previous years, or hope to feature in future journals.

City Works Literary Journal publishes written work, art and photography by City College students and faculty, along with national and international writers, artists and photographers. The editing Honors English 249 class team-taught by Professors Nadia Mandilawi and Chris Baron welcomes submissions year-round and publishes in the spring.

Copies of “City Works 2007” are available at City College Bookstore. For more information on submission guidelines or other publication opportunities, visit

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Review: ‘City’ works your emotions