Students living up to literary reputation

By Tom McLean | Posted: Monday March 13, 2017

With Dunedins designation as a UNESCO City of Literature and its well-known legacy in publishing, it should come as no surprise that a group of Otago students have joined forces to produce their own literary publication: The Scribbler.

A magazine of poetry and short stories published by students, for students, The Scribbler is produced biannually by the University of Otago Literary Society (LitSoc).

Though it was initially developed in 2012 as an online monthly magazine, The Scribbler switched to a print magazine at the start of last year. The format change has yielded a far wider audience for the Dunedin artists, writers, and poets featured in each issue, says editorial team member and English honours student Jean Balchin.

“The blog flew beneath the radar … [the print format] made it visible to people of all disciplines, and easily accessible to passers-by,” she says.

The latest issue, launched late last week, features poems focused on the student experience (such as Dance with the Due Date by Anthropology/English student Brighid Morgan and Near Death Metal by English/History student Charlie O’Mannin) and on nostalgic life experiences (Four AM, July by former English student Jeremy Spruyt, and In the Garden (And That’s Jazz) by Human Nutrition student Jess Thompson, for example). Student-made artworks and short stories also feature in the issue.

Editorial team member Campbell Calverley says interest in The Scribbler is not exclusive to Humanities students.

“Our distribution boxes regularly empty out after only a very short time,” he says. “The popularity has shown that an interest in literature is not limited to the Humanities; quite the opposite. A large number of the people from whom we receive poetry are science students who want a creative outlet.”

Though it’s not directly related to his postgraduate study of ancient Latin literature and rhetoric, Campbell says his work editing The Scribbler has been one of the most rewarding things he’s done at Otago.

“It’s an ongoing joy to see the evolution of the topics that students choose to write about, and how they choose to write about them.

“We are endlessly grateful to our contributors for their dedication, their talent, and for the consistently good work they keep sending us. We’ll keep making it as long as students want to write creatively, and I can’t see that ending any time soon.”

Dr Thomas McLean, Senior Lecturer in English and staff advisor for LitSoc, says the students have done a wonderful job with The Scribbler.

“It’s really been their project from start to finish. It’s hard work sustaining a journal, soliciting contributions, working through those contributions to create a unified journal issue, and then seeing that collection through to publication and distribution.

“The Scribbler provides a new outlet for creative work at Otago, but it’s also a reminder that there’s something special about the printed word. Hopefully it will encourage other students at Otago to take a few creative risks.”

To request a copy of The Scribbler, email or visit the Department of English and Linguistics (Burns Building) to pick up the latest issue.

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