Pollifax: Forging a Niche – Sidney Cooper

It started out as just a passionate conversation between two people about writing and the growing arts community in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Christine Tran, 21, senior at Rutgers University, writes poetry and is active in the poetry community and local politics. Kevin Olitan, 22, recent graduate of Rutgers University is involved with the music community, local art organizations, and university-affiliated creative art programs.

She spent her summer in Berlin exploring the nightlife, architecture and art; he thought he was destined to write useless poetry and fiction and mindlessly play guitar in his room all day and night.

Olitan remembered Tran talking about starting a literary magazine with a mutual friend that never happened. They met up one afternoon in July at Thai Noodle, a local restaurant located on bustling Easton Avenue in New Brunswick, having extraordinary chinwag – Olitan and Tran shared their experiences in being organizers and part of the New Brunswick creative arts community.

“There was so much social and political expression within the art and poetry I studied this summer in Berlin, which led me to find a new understanding in the importance of self-expression in a scenery of such unrest,” said Tran, 21, web designer and photographer.

“We both agreed that there were too many writers popping out of the New Brunswick scene and not enough open mics and literary avenues to help them get published and grow,” said Olitan, videographer. “Out of a whim and boredom really I asked her if she still wanted to do a literary magazine.”

They thought it would be great to help promote the growing writing and music scene and help expose the sheer talent within the city. With Olitan’s involvement in the music community and Tran’s in the poetry scene, they were able to put together an online cultural publication showcasing writers, artists, and musicians interestingly under what they call the “Wanderer Sessions.”

While Tran learned the tricks of web design and HTML in a short period of time, Olitan sharpened his videography skills. In August of 2009, they came together in creating an independent creative arts publication. Pollifax.com, in the span of a month, became real. Currently, the publication is only available online, but the founders plan to publish a six month compilation book in the near future.

One of the writers showcased on Pollifax is Zandra Ruiz. Ruiz found out about Pollifax through her English professor when asking how to become more involved in the literary community.

“Pollifax is like home. It’s a mix of everything I love about New Brunswick,” said Ruiz. “It’s created by people I know, so it isn’t intimidating to submit my writing.”

Olitan and Tran have worked so hard to provide this space for artists, most definitely appreciated by writers of the literary community.

Proud writer featured on Pollifax, Christopher Raymond Campbell, was actually approached by co-founder, Tran, asking if he would submit his work. From then on he has made an effort to submit a writing piece for each new upcoming volume.

“Pollifax, to me, represents a grassroots movement in New Brunswick to preserve art,” said Raymond. “The ‘Wanderer Sessions’ showcase incredible talents and the poetry section gives life to a thriving writing community, as well.”

These “Wanderer Sessions” are recorded videos that will be online forever not just something that can easily be shut down, like a lot of shut down venues. Inspired by Vincent Moon, guerilla filmmaker — filming takes place in random places like street corners, classrooms, and buses with one camera.

“I want to represent music in its most basic, most beautiful, most genuine form, without any of the embellishments and bells and whistles that our culture today is so obsessed with,” Olitan said. “One camera and a shit load of amazing music. That’s it.”

The point of “Wanderer Sessions” is to showcase all talented bands in and out of the city like a memory or souvenir. The aspiration of this was not only promotional but it was for the people of the city and the world to see, unveiling this whole underground arts culture.

“It was a shame that kids from the University, who are right on fucking top of this bubbling art scene, know absolutely nothing of its existence,” Olitan said.

Hardevi Shah, poet showcased on Pollifax, was drawn to this online cultural magazine because it has no other purpose than to communicate and share a voice as opposed to being a competitive cultural publication.

“It has become this great way to connect the past, present and future of the New Brunswick community,” said Shah. “Pollifax is a baby publication that has been gaining incredible exposure through word of mouth, which is the truest gift to effort.”

Olitan and Tran both agreed that for a town full of talented artists, there is a lack of public venues and space for artists; there is little space for young artists to grow. Their ultimate goal is simply to provide a venue in and of itself for the people of New Brunswick.

“We have engrossed ourselves in the continuously growing arts community of New Brunswick and hope to continue to showcase the talents of this city and potentially artists in cities beyond,” Tran said.

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