quarto: a history
Quarto is the undergraduate literary magazine of Columbia University’s Creative Writing Department. It is a student-run magazine that publishes the best of Columbia’s undergraduate writers from all four of
Columbia’s undergraduate colleges. The Creative Writing Department provides support and a faculty advisor to the magazine, though the editorial board has representatives from departments across campus.
Quarto is dedicated to renewal—to changing formats and editorial boards and exploring new opportunities to recognize writers—all in the effort to keep up with the ever-changing literary landscape on campus,
and to give each magazine a fresh voice. Quarto was created in 1948 and housed in the School of General Studies. In 1998, the magazine expanded to serve the entire undergraduate writing community.
In 2007, with the creation of the Creative Writing Department, the magazine found its current home in an environment dedicated to craft and excellence in writing.
Quarto has published Pulitzer Prize winners, the US Poet Laureate Louise Glück, best-selling authors such as Kim Wozencraft, successful playwrights like Adam Szymkowicz, poets, screenwriters, and art critics.
Members of its editorial staff have gone on to start their own literary magazines and some, like Edwidge Dandicat, have found literary success themselves.
What never changes is Quarto's dedication to find the best undergraduate writing at Columbia—and the proof can be seen every year printed in its pages.
The Quarto archives can be accessed here. The most recent issue of Quarto can be read here.
enter the thunderdome
Thank you to all who submitted to the first ever ENTER THE THUNDERDOME event. We received over 100 submissions over the course of four days. Read the winning submissions below.
day 1. heidi julavits
winner. wells hamilton
I had a necklace once, my first ex-girlfriend gave me, that I carried couched in my wallet behind
a screen of ice-cream punch cards.
The pendant, this pewter elephant rimmed on its saddle by fake diamonds (the kind that chipped
off like sweat beads, loose tears from that inanimate object’s frequent panic attacks)
I liked elephants then because I liked Ganesh (both creator and destroyer) reason being, I’ve
never felt fully created and always wanted to be destroyed. It’s a comforting cosmology for those
of us unskilled at waking-sleeping like it’s no big deal.
She claimed to be a gypsy (that girl), the French kind whose old world mysticism looked a lot
like water in a black bowl, deep and endless but ultimately with an end. And gypsies don’t have
a word for benevolent spells so everything is a curse except some curses work temporarily in
your favor. So
I had a protection curse once, my first ex-girlfriend gave me, that I carried couched in my wallet
behind a screen of ice-cream punch cards.
I don’t know if this was supposed to be some kind of car-crash deterrent or anti-cancer vaccine
(like a secondary seatbelt or a glass of red wine every dinner) or something much more ethereal.
The glitches in her anti-psychotics usually manifested themselves in the shape of demons that
she’d labeled as mystic mercenaries sent to kill us. The vast irony being that those demons did
eventually kill “us” and that hunk of metal couldn’t do shit to stop ‘em.
But before then it was a sort of handsy talisman, occupying significant real-estate in my pre-
natal, post-traumatic imagination. Like I don’t think I would have bought into so much
schizophrenic bullshit if there wasn’t that axis for it to all rotate on.
I’ve long since lost it.
day 2. sunil gulatiLet’s Get This Party Scrapbooked
winner. liv lansdale
What? No, this is not artsy at all! I’m not artsy. I just do this for fun, for posterity. My daughters will love this stuff. This one’s the only picture where I use the flash and then I kept focusing on the wrong thing. I don’t know how to use the auto-focus or the manual focus. That one is finally focused. Right there. I’m glad I decided to sneak in. Then I took a picture of a wineglass but I couldn’t deal with the light, see how it washes out that guy’s face? This is a great picture, wait, who took that? I forget whether I was there or not. I mean, I wasn’t black-out, I left early and must have left the camera in the lounge. Someone must have taken these. Is that rude? Would you do that? Wait, I’m in that picture so this must have been before that. Ugh, I wish I were taller. You can hardly see me behind Kelly. Did someone take pictures of my groceries? Look, they even included the soymilk. What, it was an important ingredient! Did you have any? Not even the gelato on the side? It’s the best in New York! That shot must have been a mistake, nobody’s there. And trust me, there is always someone here. It. Is. A. Clowncar. Is that the roll? Guess so. But seriously, a clown car. The man in that last picture, he explained to me that the crossbar in the hammock he was lying in in the corner actually makes it less stable. Do you want any coffee?
Is this person lonely?
B) Yes and everyone knows.
C) Yes and someone has stolen her camera.
D) Yes and she left her camera behind on purpose.
day 3. debora spar
winner. benjamin rashkovich
I was born way south in the middle of a sunstorm, when clay baked into solid rock and you could hear the off-green grass dry to death. My old school’s turned into a department store I guess, and the bar’s turned into a school—I guess—I haven’t been back to visit for thirty, forty. We’re all still afraid of the dust but our bones do miss the heat.
We were cruel children, the youngest most of all, and it was little Sally—Nancy—Jerry—it’s no matter which—who peaked around the corner of a garage and found Bill—Jack—Ted—it’s no matter which, really, as we after called him just the Horse Boy. She came back to where we sat in the cracked-pavement lot, trying to spit-wish a cloud up toward the sky for shade, she came back shimmying under the fence and told us in a fever hush about the Horse Boy.
“He’s got this wooden horse, size of a truck, and he’s riding it like the devil’s on his heels. Got a cowboy hat and boots and all, spurs and all”—I don’t imagine little what’s-her did say this about the spurs, but memory right has its way with you—“and he’s most sincerely riding that wood horse to death.”
Well, we had some laughs, ‘til one stood up and announced we’d all go see this horse of his. We sprinted down the street, then quieted up right outside Horse Boy’s house. He’d left his garage open, hoping for a breeze. Most peaked around the corner like that first little girl showed us, authority now. I stayed back and listened, heard the creak and scuff of a wooden gallop, heard the Horse Boy say over and again under his breath, “There’s a future out there.”
day 4. erik grayYoung Girls and Other Endangered Species
winner. kailee marie pedersen
grand winner of the thunderdome!
your father is a zoologist his favorite animal is a hyena
was—well, until That Woman (your mother) took off in her
red lipstick Cadillac
smoky asphalt in her hair, her smile, you think perhaps
that you would remember her, and her father says she laughed
like a certain feliform
no more hyenas.)
your father writes a monograph on rainforest ecology
and becomes obsessed with
of all things.
so grotesque, with their little sniffly noses
proboscises, he corrects you in his best I’m A Professor voice
(exam question #1: did he speak to your mother in that voice?)
the one with its lilting condescension, an atonal hum
heavy with knowledge. a mysterious tune you cannot sing.
the tips of his hair
grow silver like his favorite cufflinks; you sprout
limbs like a sad little plant. you say, I need some money
and he says, in Colombia, woolly tapirs live in cloud forests.
he hands you fifty dollars.
(exam questions #2: you have fifty dollars
how many dresses and books on the order Perissodactyla
will this buy you? please
show your work.)
your local zoo is getting a tapir. you don’t know if it was
your father’s petitions to the mayor,
the bewildered dean of the animal sciences department
or the old animal’s absolute unsuitability to civilization.
apparently they sent a half-dying one
down from Sacramento. at the grand opening
it glares at you and your father, motionless in the
just before closing time.
I didn’t know, your father says,
it would be so damn ugly. Look at that nose!
it’s not a nose, you say, it’s a proboscis, dad.
(for extra credit:
tapirs will live more than twenty years in captivity. is this true
of young women?)