Coelacanth (see-la-canth) and archaeopteryx (ark-ee-op-tricks) are words not often used in the everyday vocabulary. In fact, the latter of the two is extinct and the former is nearly extinct.
A coelacanth is a 400 million-year-old prehistoric fish that still lives in the Indian Ocean today. Archaeopteryx derives from the ancient Greek (archaīos) meaning “ancient,” and (ptéryx) meaning “feather” or “wing.” It is commonly believed to be the most ancient bird known.
These animal names are also the names of two Newman University literary journal publications: one by students and the other by professionals.
The “Coelacanth,” formerly titled, “Sheridan Edwards Review,” was started more than 15 years ago by Professor of English and Chair of the Arts and Letters Division Bryan Dietrich, Ph.D. It has gone from a small, photocopy production to a professional publication that has won numerous national awards including from the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Media Association.
Undergraduate students from any university have the opportunity to submit their prose — short stories or plays — poems, art and photography for possible publication in the literary magazine.
The staff of the “Coelacanth” is solely composed of students, save for Dietrich, who review, accept, decline, edit and compile the magazine. The “C
oelacanth” is a 1-credit hour course that counts toward a student’s electives.
The “Coelacanth” is important because it showcases students’ writing talent and gives them an opportunity to have hands-on experience editing and compiling a literary magazine. Their work can be read or seen across the country and potentially the world.
Each spring semester, Newman University hosts a literary festival in April with guest speakers, staff lectures and student presenters of essays and short plays. During the event, there is a “Coelacanth” unveiling and reading, during which, family, friends, faculty and staff gather to listen to students read or speak about their published pieces. At the end of the unveiling, the Sister Madeleine Kisner Prize in Poetry and the Jeanne Lobmeyer Cárdenas Prize in Short Fiction — which are judged by nationally known writers — are awarded to the winners of their respective category.
Dietrich also created “Archaeopteryx: The Newman Journal of Ideas,” first published in 2012, as a more discrete publication. Professors from Newman University, authors from around the world, and occasionally an undergraduate student, have their work published in this literary magazine featuring poetry, fiction, essays and a special feature.
At the end of the preface of the second volume, Dietrich succinctly emphasizes the importance of literary journals: “You will find here the belief that there is nothing more important than taking the hand of a world gone astray and leading it back to the light.”
The mission reads, “The ‘Archeopteryx’ … exists to provide a space for meaningful academic and creative work that investigates the true, the beautiful and the good. We welcome faith, we welcome reason, we welcome the sublime. Named for the first bird — ancient, fossilized, frozen as if in the act of flying through shale — ‘Archaeopteryx’ is intended to shake free from stone and set the soul free to soar.”
Archaeopteryx: The Newman Journal of Ideas, Volumes 1-3, are available for purchase on Amazon.