Helicon Literary & Arts Magazine Encourages Creativity at Northwestern

From intricate 20-page prose to moving short stories and poems, Helicon — Northwestern’s student-run arts and literature magazine — celebrates all forms of creative expression.

The magazine, one of the oldest publications on campus, allows students to experiment with screenplays, creative non-fiction, and fiction. The art section features visual media like collages, paintings, digital art and drawings. Spoken poetry, films, music, recorded plays and music videos also extend the publication’s online presence.

Helicon brings together literary and artistic communities and unites people of all disciplines and experiences, according to Weinberg senior and Helicon editor Rachel Kantor.

“Being a platform for people to feel free to express themselves is definitely at the heart of our mission,” said Hannah Hall, COO of Medill.

To encourage creativity, the magazine organizes workshops and open-mic evenings.

Abeje Schnake, editor of Helicon, said community building is also a central part of the publication, not only within the magazine, but also in a broader realm, as the workshops are open to the public.

“(Helicon) showcases creativity, originality, well-produced stuff and reflects the zeitgeist of Northwestern’s current art culture,” said Weinberg’s senior. “We aim to create a literary or artistic community on campus.

The publication also partners with other campus groups like Brewbike, ARTica Studios and Wild Roots. Hall said the publication has organized volunteer projects in Chicago public schools that center on creative writing and help with college application writing.

Helicon publishes two issues a year, one in the winter and another in the spring. The Winter 2022 issue is set to be released in late February with an in-person open-mic launch event. Submissions for the Spring 2022 issue will open around the same time on the magazine’s website.

Kantor said pieces can be emotionally vulnerable or formal, like a poem on the race struggle or an academic essay on photography. Submissions can also have a conversational or comedic tone, like last year about the Cookie Monster, she said.

Although there are no content specifications, students may submit a maximum of three pieces. Even so, the magazine typically racks up around 100 submissions per issue. Most of the submissions are poetry, Kantor said.

A submitted artwork is always displayed on the cover of the magazine and inspires the rest of the magazine content. Spring 2021 issue blanket Featured Dōtonbori, Japan, to showcase the artist’s cultural heritage. The magazine’s content included pieces on Asian heritage and memory, such as a work written on the Chinese New Year and a poem in Cantonese.

The magazine occasionally chooses thematic writing prompts for its website. One of the most recent prompts, titled “Share Your 2020 Story,” gave students the opportunity to share their pent-up pandemic feelings. Another one-time event, “On Earth,” featured student work that covered topics ranging from nature to climate change and sustainability.

Kantor said Helicon is a one-stop space for students to share their otherwise personal content.

“I love the work we produce, I love our magazines every year,” she said. “It’s so exciting to see all these amazing pieces…because I think about this work so much, if Helicon didn’t exist, people wouldn’t really see it.”

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