Literary MagNet

Kevin Larimer
From the November/December 2006 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

Quietly, without a lot of hoopla, Ploughshares (, the triquarterly magazine founded in 1971 by DeWitt Henry and Peter O'Malley (in the Plough and Stars pub in Cambridge, Massachusetts) and published at Emerson College in Boston, celebrated three and a half decades in print by releasing its hundredth issue in August. The Fall 2006 fiction issue, guest-edited by Ron Carlson—who recently left his long-held teaching position at Arizona State University for the University of California, Irvine, where he is the director of its creative writing program in fiction—features work by Amy Bloom, Alan Cheuse, Gish Jen, and a dozen others. In the issue's introduction, Carlson explains that "the editors decided not to do a retrospective or commemorative to mark the occasion" of the anniversary. "Indeed, they didn't even tell me about the occasion until after I had finished." So, forget the anniversary gift—unless, of course, it's an order for a subscription to Ploughshares. Editor Don Lee probably wouldn't look that horse in the mouth.

Two other literary magazines are celebrating significant anniversaries this year, their thirtieth—the pearl anniversary, for those who still honor that gift-giving tradition. Calyx (, the biannual launched in 1976 by Barbara Baldwin, Margarita Donnelly, Meredith Jenkins, and Beth McLagan in Corvallis, Oregon, is dedicated to literature and art by women. Its anniversary issue, published in August, includes short essays by members of the editorial staff, including cofounder Donnelly, who points out that women's standing in mainstream literature has only slightly improved over the past thirty years. "A recent survey of small press publishing by a Calyx intern revealed only twenty-five percent of those published are women," she writes. "In evaluating major literary anthologies, women's literature currently averages ten percent of the work included, up slightly from the seven percent representation of women in anthologies in 1976 when Calyx was founded." In contrast to Donnelly's numbers is the percentage of women on the list of contributors to Gargoyle (, the annual literary magazine edited by Lucinda Ebersole and Richard Peabody in Arlington, Virginia, which is also celebrating thirty years in print. At least 45 percent of the writers who have had work published in Gargoyle since 1976 are women, including Kathy Acker, Rita Dove, Jennifer Egan, Shelley Jackson, and Naomi Shihab Nye. But Gargoyle, which has also published the likes of T. C. Boyle, Russell Edson, Allen Ginsberg, Ben Marcus, and Rick Moody, doesn't make any declarations about gender distinctions. The cover of its anniversary issue, also released in August, features an illustration by Patricia Storms that pretty well sums up thirty years of work by a magazine that doesn't take itself too seriously: A UFO indiscriminately beams up its cargo, including toilet paper, a telephone, a rat, a cat, a drumstick, a brassiere, a granny with a book, and Frankenstein with a typewriter. God bless literary magazines with a sense of humor.

"Literary magazines come and go, and sometimes they resurface again," writes contributing editor Rebecca Bengal in Volume 9, Issue 33 of American Short Fiction ( Bengal should know, because that's exactly what happened to American Short Fiction. Founded in 1991 by Laura Furman and published for seven years by the University of Texas Press in Austin, the original quarterly built quite a reputation, winning a Pushcart Prize and two National Magazine Award nominations. Like many others before and since, however, the magazine quietly disappeared, in 1998. But, after the Austin-based nonprofit Badgerdog Literary Publishing acquired it in 2003, American Short Fiction resumed publication. The first issue, sporting a cool new design, was officially unveiled at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference in March.

Kevin Larimer is the senior editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.