Columbia alums launch international literary journal

Courtesy Aiden Weber
Aiden Weber, a 2014 creative writing alumnus and director and curator of Polycephaly, printed posters advertising the literary journal’s April 10 launch party. 

By ARTS & CULTURE REPORTER

What started as a conversation about literature over beers has snowballed into the formation of a new graphic literary journal, Polycephaly, which launched April 10.

Aiden Weber, director and producer of the journal, a 2014 creative writing alumnus and former Assistant Sports & Health Editor at The Chronicle, said he wanted to leave his mark on the Chicago community before moving to France for a life change in a few months with his girlfriend, Marin Labelle, one of the graphic designers for the literary project.

Weber said the magazine staff  includes two other Columbia alumni, Sean Sullivan, a 2015 creative writing major who works in the Undergraduate Admissions Office, and Sofia Bibliowicz, a 2013 marketing major. 

Polycephaly, which means multi-headed in English, is a semiannual literary journal featuring poetry, fiction, nonfiction, photography and illustrations from global artists, Weber said. With seven writers, three illustrators and two designers from around the world, Weber said the international team worked tirelessly to create the finished 184-page product.

“Everybody’s enthusiasm built off the [others’],” Weber said. “It became a giant thing that kind of took over my life.”

Bibliowicz, who now lives in New York and does marketing and public relations for the magazine, said Polycephaly is a perfect fit for Chicago’s do-it-yourself culture and the magazine market because the market is more dominated by lifestyle and visual art magazines, not literary journals.

“There is a gap in the publication market for a good literary magazine—one that is aesthetically pleasing,” Bibliowicz said.

Weber’s goal is for Polycephaly to be distributed worldwide and sold in international bookstores in Europe, as both graphic designers are from France.

Julien Baiamonte, a designer who currently lives in Geneva to finish his university education, said working with Weber and Labelle was interesting because Weber offered a writer’s perspective, while Baiamonte and Labelle, who had previously worked together in France on other design projects, brought design and illustrative expertise to the table.

“[Marin] and I are inspired by fashion design,” Baiamonte said. “That culture about fashion is omnipresent in our work. In this way we use lots of vivid colors that you can find right now in clothes.”

Baiamonte said he and Labelle wanted to make sure the magazine’s logo could be a signature.

“When you hear ‘Polycephaly,’ there is an entire universe that is [created] in your mind,” he said.

McKenize Toma, a poet featured in the journal who graduated from California College of the Arts in San Francisco in 2015, said she contributed pieces from an unfinished manuscript and is grateful to have been part of the team.

“Writing has gotten into this world of boundary-less genres where prose can be poetic and poetry can be in a prose format,” Toma said.

She said there are not many projects that involve young publishers and writers collaborating, which makes Polycephaly novel.

“Anytime somebody recognizes what you’re doing and wants you to succeed, it is a special feeling,” she said. “It will reach an audience—which is what you want to do.”