From the Department of Possibly Lost But Nevertheless Immensely Worthwhile Causes


In all the understandable uproar about the impending disembowelment of the literary magazine TriQuarterly, I haven’t yet seen a suggestion that readers and writers try to do something about the situation.

And so, after a minute of crack sleuthing, I’ve discovered an address to which one can write to ask Northwestern University to reconsider their decision to get rid of TriQuarterly’s editorial board (after the jump).

Because, of course, the upsetting part of the announced changes is that the university has decided the magazine no longer needs its editors and TriQuarterly can function just as well as an “‘open source’ student-run journal.” (The university is moving the print journal online, too, but that’s comparatively a minor point.) Editors–it should be needless to say, but it seems it isn’t–matter, as does demonstrated expertise. For the most part, editors labor for little glory and less pay because they love discovering, curating, and, well, editing new literature–and the good ones are invaluable. Poet C. Dale Young writes here about the wisdom that TriQuarterly’s longstanding editor Susan Hahn brought to bear on his first manuscript of poems; the New Yorker’s Book Bench makes the point that “reducing overhead in materials and distribution by publishing online is one thing; letting go of the editors who guided the literary vision of a serious journal over the course of decades signals a more ominous commitment to cost-efficiency at the expense of institutional and intellectual values.”

Ye lovers of letters: write a short email! Normally, I would add: and subscribe to TriQuarterly to help support the magazine, but since its future is, for now, nil–subscribe somewhere, if you can. Maybe to the New England Review, whose future also is threatened, or the Virginia Quarterly Review, where editor Ted Genoways is a vocal advocate of the embattled college-backed review, or the Kenyon Review, or AGNI, or Epoch, or the Southern Review, or the Missouri Review.

More details:

The how: the president of Northwestern is Morton Shapiro, and he can be reached at [email protected]

The why: in short, TriQuarterly is an excellent and groundbreaking literary magazine, founded in 1958, that was the first to discover writers ranging from Amy Hempel (by publishing her heartstopping and oft-anthologized story, “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried”) to, more recently, Aleksander Hemon. As per an email sent out by TriQuarterly’s associate editor, Ian Morris, the decision was made by the university–and handed down to the review’s editors–only hours before a press release went out.

Additional reading: Ted Genoways, the editor of VQR, writes eloquently here and here about the enduring value of university-backed literary magazines and presses, and why universities and readers should care about these undersung creatures.

Reese Okyong Kwon's writing is published or forthcoming in the Believer, American Short Fiction, Gulf Coast, Kenyon Review, Missouri Review, and elsewhere. She has received scholarships from Bread Loaf and the Norman Mailer Writers' Colony, and was named one of Narrative's "30 Below 30" writers. She can be found at More from this author →