Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The Swarthmore Literary Review is a newly created annual poetry magazine, and is one of 22 publications at Swarthmore. The magazine, however, is also Swarthmore’s only international publication and accepts submissions from poets around the world. While this makes the Review unique, it contributed to the Charter Committee’s decision to reject the Review’s charter application. Charters are required to receive funding from the Student Budget Committee.
Swarthmore Literary Review was created to parallel poetry journals at other educational institutions, such as the Harvard, Yale and Kenyon Review. The magazine will be based in Swarthmore but will contain works from both within the college and outside work, and will be distributed on campus. Rahul D’Silva ’08 wanted to create similar journals that found a broader scope. “We’re so isolated from the writing community,” said D’Silva. “The magazine is the first one to look outside the community and is a landmark publication for Swarthmore.” D’Silva also hopes the Review will establish Swarthmore as rich literary centre.
D’Silva, who is an English major with creative writing concentration, found two students in his poetry workshop to help him co-organize the magazine, Justin DiFeliciantoni ’10 and Johanna Bond ’10. Both shared similar sentiments about creating a venue for international artistic dialogue. “We want to connect Swarthmore students with outsiders…that’s the point of the arts,” said Bond. DiFeliciantoni also hopes the review will “improve the name of Swarthmore to increase its prestige.”
The group garnered the support of two faculty members from the English Literature department, Department Chair Peter Schmidt and poetry professor Nat Anderson, and Vice President Maurice Eldridge. “The proposal is a good one and an interesting one,” said Eldridge. “Nat Anderson and Peter Schmidt [also] felt it was a worthwhile venture.”
The editors advertised to the international poetry community by emailing faculty at creative writing programs and editors of literary magazines at other universities and colleges. Within a few weeks, they had received over 200 submissions, of which fifty will be selected for the first issue. Contributor Rhae Lynn Barnes was an editor of international publication Berkeley Poetry Review at University of Berkeley. “I respect anyone who is trying to promote arts,” she said. “The arts are crucial. As a premier college like Swat, it should be available to all students. [The magazine] provides a new arena for [students] to present their work to new audiences.”
In order to root the magazine at Swarthmore while opening it up, the editors will select a balanced mix of poems written members Swarthmore community and outside writers. The only criteria will be the quality of the poems, which the editors will judge based on using their experiences. “We have enough experience with poetry to be able to look at and evaluate poetry,” said D’Silva. “We’re committed to publishing at least 5% of the work of Swarthmore students. But if there are poems by Swarthmore students that are better than outside work, then we won’t hesitate to publish more of them.”
Although the first-issue will be web-based, subsequent issues will be print-based. The editors sought to become a chartered group in order to cover their annual printing costs. However, they were rejected by the committee.
“There is no debate on the charter committee that it is a great idea,” said Student Council President Peter Gardner ’08. “It’s not about qualifications, but a matter of the best way to get it published.” The issue is using money front the student activities fee to fund a project that does not primarily focus on Swarthmore students. “It is not in our mandate to help support international poetry,” said Gardner. Another concern was that the Review was too similar to Small Craft Warnings in the aspects that were relevant to Swarthmore.
Eldridge’s response was, “the reaction to the charter is rather narrow. I don’t see [the publication] as not serving Swat students and alumni. It enriches students as readers and writers.”
Of the thirteen charter requests received this year, the Swarthmore Literary Review was the only one that was denied. The Review requested $3000 in funds. Comparatively, newly chartered magazines The Night CafÃ© requested an annual budget for $24,000 and Punc/tum!! requested $12,000. Both will be funded although not the full amount.
Underlying the committee’s decision on the Review is the number of many literary magazines competing for SBC’s funds in a year when the budget is considerably constricted, according to Gardner. Publications comprise the largest piece of SBC’s budget, 22%, with the Halcyon and The Phoenix costing the most. Student Council is currently speaking with Alumni Relations and Development to discuss sharing the budgetary burden of Halcyon. Similarly, Gardner referred the Review to find alternative sources of funding, such as Alumni Council and the President’s office.
According to D’Silva, Alumni Council, Admissions and the President’s office are all in support of the venture as a marketing tool to promote the college. However, “even if we would get financial support from the President’s office or the academic departments, this would be minimal and not sustainable in the long-term which is why we want to become a chartered group,” said D’Silva. Compared to “Small Craft Warnings, which is having trouble with submissions and the other two publications which are not giving a new audience, we deserved to be chartered and funded.”
Despite the funding issues, the magazine will still appear in web-form in May and D’Silva believes the magazines will continue to expand into an institutional part of Swarthmore. “Although the magazine is starting as poetry,” said D’Silva, “we envision it into expanding into translations, fictions and essays, and of being Swarthmore’s full-fledged literary magazine.”