The cover of 2010 issue of Milvia Street
The cover of 2010 issue of Milvia Street. Designed by Joannie Mitchell

The current issue of Milvia Street, the literary magazine of Berkeley City College, features an eclectic mix of artists and writers.

There is a story by Hoa Tran, who fled with his family from Vietnam after the war and went on to get a PhD in forestry, one from Amy Rich, who used poetry to recover from drug addiction, and one from Cassandra Dallet, a former high-school dropout who has gone on to publish her work in numerous local journals.

The diversity of contributors to the journal is a reflection of the varied student body at the two-year college on Center Street.

“Most of it is student work, which doesn’t mean they are 18 to 20 years old,” said Sharon Coleman, a poet and the faculty advisor for the journal. “Students range from 16 years to 75 years old. Some have advanced degrees. Some have GEDs. But they are all very good writers.”

People will have a chance to hear excerpts from Milvia Street on Tuesday night when contributors read from their work at 7:30 pm at Moe’s Books on Telegraph.

Students have been producing the journal on and off for the last 22 years. But recent budget cuts – and the threat of even larger cuts to come – puts the magazine’s future in doubt.

Until 2004, the journal was produced out of two classes, a writing class and a multimedia class. That year the writing class was cut for budget reasons. The multi-media class and its successor were cut in 2008, said Coleman.

A student club with a paid faculty advisor has produced the journal since 2005. (The magazine did not come out in 2004.) In January, the college told Coleman it could no longer pay her a stipend for the hours she spends editing pieces, writing up student reflections, applying for grants and other matters. The stipend for the former student who designed and put together the journal was also cut.

Coleman doesn’t think she will be able to continue as faculty advisor because she can’t volunteer her time.

“I am very concerned,” said Coleman. “We’ve been on a starvation diet for a number of years and I think that is going to go.”

The money has been so tight – it costs $3,500 each year to print – that the magazine was printed in November of 2010 rather than the usual May publication date, she said.

The community has been trying to help out, said Coleman. The Berkeley Arts Commission has been generous, she said. The Berkeley Poetry Festival donated $500 this year, so the 2011 edition of the journal will be published in May.

“The community has been wonderful helping us out,” said Coleman.

If funds are not forthcoming, the journal may move to an online format, she said.

The current issue has about 35 contributors. Most of the stories and poems were written by students, but three faculty members also have pieces. Milvia Street also features the work of student artists. The 2010 cover was designed by Joannie Mitchell.

In addition to the May 3 reading at Moe’s, Milvia Street contributors will be reading at the Berkeley Poetry Festival on May 21. The event will take place at Berkeley City College from 12:30 to 4:30.

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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  1. One of the first things that I ever wrote got published in Milvia Street magazine — if I remember correctly. But for sure I do remember being involved with publishing the first issue — and not liking the name that the majority of the class had picked out. But, ironically, 20 years later I ended up actually living on the actual Milvia Street that this zine was named for. Moral? Milvia Street magazine looms large in my legend? We should keep it around? Yeah, all of the above.