Literary MagNet

Kevin Larimer

Beginning in 1959, when it was founded by Carolyn Kizer at the University of Washington in Seattle, until 2002, when its last issue was published, Poetry Northwest ( compiled a prestigious list of contributing poets, including John Berryman, James Dickey, Theodore Roethke, and James Wright. Despite the high caliber of its contributors, however, financial difficulties plagued the magazine. David Wagoner, who was named editor of Poetry Northwest in 1966, struggled through financial crises in 1972, 1986, and 1997. In 2000 he announced the quarterly’s closure, but an e-mail campaign orchestrated by the journal’s supporters persuaded University of Washington president Richard McCormick to fund the magazine for another two years. During that time no other source of funding was found, so Poetry Northwest ceased publication. Now, three years later, the university has announced that it reached an agreement with the Attic Writers’ Workshop, a literary studio providing creative writing classes in Portland, Oregon, to revive the magazine as a biannual, beginning in March 2006. Poet David Biespiel, who founded Attic in 2000, has been named editor.

Adding to the poetry, fiction, and essays that the Alaska Quarterly Review ( has been publishing for twenty-three years, at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, the Fall/Winter issue of the journal, edited by Ronald Spatz, includes an eighty-page photo essay (eighty pages!) that is unique in both content and scope. In “Chechnya: A Decade of War,” photojournalist Heidi Bradner documents the Chechen Republic’s decade-long battle for independence from Russia. An image of Russian soldiers searching a mass grave in Grozny is balanced by the image of a family returning to the shattered remains of their home in a Chechen village. The feature includes photographs from both sides of what Brander calls “Europe’s longest-running but least visible war.”

Has Rebecca Wolff gone too far? That will likely be the second, or perhaps the third, thought that pops into readers’ minds when they see the Summer 2005 issue of Fence (, published in September. The cover of the double issue shows a shirtless woman who barely conceals her exposed chest. In the editor’s note, titled “Summer Fiction Tits,” Wolff explains that she arrived at her choice for the cover design after noticing that the Fall/Winter 2003 issue of the quarterly—which featured a subtler piece of art on the cover—had a sell-through rate that was 25 percent below that of a typical issue. Wolff calls the current cover an example of “experimental (though certainly not innovative) marketing.” Of course, this kind of thing is the standard for many commercial magazines: The cover of the October issue of Vanity Fair shows Paris Hilton in a similarly provocative pose. But so much skin has rarely—if ever—been seen on the cover of a literary magazine. Is it a sly comment on contemporary culture, a surrender to bottom-line sales figures, or just good-natured fun for an industry that could use a little?

Among the new literary magazines that benefit from the talents of students in both English and design departments—Black Clock ( at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia and Ninth Letter ( at the University of Illinois, Urbana, among them—Eleven Eleven ( might strike the best balance between editorial and design. An annual journal published at the California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco, Eleven Eleven provides “a forum for writers and artists to risk experiment—and to exchange ideas about the creative process,” according to coeditors Youmna Chlala and Brent Foster Jones. The second issue, published earlier this year, features a design by Ellen Y. Hsu, a recent graduate of CCA, “that mirrors the content of much of the writing and artworks: notions of damage and repair; tape, cracks, and spots of light and paint adorn the cover and interior pages.” The editors began reading manuscripts and viewing artwork for the third issue of Eleven Eleven last month.

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