If it weren’t for the persistence of Diner (www.spokenword.to/diner), the Massachusetts Review (massreview.org), Night Train (www.nighttrainmagazine.com), and the dozen or so other literary magazines in Massachusetts, readers might get the impression that the Colony State isn’t a friendly place for a journal: Two literary magazines in eastern Massachusetts recently ceased publication. For 22 years, the Women’s Review of Books (www.wellesley.edu/WomensReview), a monthly tabloid published by the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, featured book reviews and essays about and by feminist writers such as Kathy Acker, Raya Dunayevskaya, Marilyn Hacker, and Adrienne Rich. At its peak, in 1992, the Women’s Review of Books had 12,000 subscribers, but by the end of 2004, the number had dropped to 5,500. After operating at a deficit since the mid-1990s (the magazine owes the Wellesley Centers for Women over $200,000), it published its final issue in December. “We are exploring the possibility of finding an additional institution—or long-term donor—to join WCW and the Women’s Review to reconceive and relaunch the publication,” wrote editor Amy Hoffman.
Despite managing editor Kirk Kicklighter’s assurance that DoubleTake (www.doubletakemagazine.org) would rise from the grave “like some kind of gung-ho zombie,” the quarterly magazine that was founded by Robert Coles at Duke University in 1995, moved to Somerville in 1999, and suffered a series of high-profile financial crises along the way, is (still) dead. After a yearlong hiatus that was supposed to end last summer with the magazine’s relaunching as a bimonthly, the staff called it quits. “We’re sorry it had to end,” reads a message on the magazine’s Web site, “we’ve simply run out of money and are unable to find sustained sources of support.” Rest in peace.
In other news from beyond the grave—good news, this time—the Oxford American (www.oxfordamericanmag.com), the literary magazine launched by Marc Smirnoff 13 years ago in Oxford, Mississippi, has recently shown new signs of life. After calling it quits three—count ’em, three—separate times (in 1994, in 2002, and then in 2003, after it moved to Little Rock, Arkansas), the Oxford American is in print once again. The Winter 2005 issue marks a new chapter in the magazine’s history: It is no longer a for-profit, bimonthly publication, but rather a quarterly, nonprofit magazine, now based 25 miles north of Little Rock, at the University of Central Arkansas, in Conway. In his editor’s note in the most recent issue, Smirnoff explains his motivation to revive the Southern Magazine of Good Writing a fourth time: “The drive to transcend complacency and mediocrity always feels worth doing.”
In a recent interview, poet Ilya Kaminsky said that “poetry is no easy way to understand why we are here on this planet—there is a lot of internal struggle, necessary and unnecessary conflict, a lot of choking with words.” Indeed, it’s a nettlesome activity that can make anyone a little cranky, but it’s not without its rewards. So it’s no wonder Amber Curtis launched Cranky Literary Journal (www.failedpromise.org) last year in Seattle. In addition to the interview quoted above, Cranky has published poetry by Kary Wayson, Erin Malone, and Martha Silano, and fiction by James Reed, Corey Mesler, and many others. In January, the triannual magazine celebrated its first year of publication and the release of its fourth issue with readings by poet Richard Kenney and fiction writer Rebecca Brown at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle.
Kevin Larimer is the senior editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.