Minnesota’s Longest-Running Literary Journal celebrates its first issue published by the University of Minnesota Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the Weisman Art Museum
For Great River Review, arousing a feeling of surprise in its readers has been something of a governing principal throughout its 40 years in publication. Like a deeply considered gift, the oldest literary journal in Minnesota has published for its readers work “filled with the playful joys of discovery,” said Robert Hedin, who edited the journal from 1997 to 2015.
While Great River Review moved upriver to the University of Minnesota’s English Department in 2016, it still seeks literature that engages and surprises, said poet and UMN creative writing professor Peter Campion, who has assumed the journal’s editorship. “Robert and Great River Review have left an indelible mark on Minnesota’s literary legacy,” said Campion. “We aim to continue what he started.”
With the recent publication of the first issue in its new home—and number 64 overall—Great River Review is celebrating its past, present, and future with a launch party on Tuesday, Oct. 17, from 6–8 p.m. at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis. The event will feature readings from fiction writer Michael Walsh, nonfiction writers Erica Berry and Jordan Thomas, and poet Gretchen Marquette.
Great River Review (GRR) was founded in 1977 at Mankato State by the writer and poet Emilio DeGrazia. Published biannually by the Anderson Center in Red Wing since 1996, GRR has been dedicated to publishing the best in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and translation. It has published work by literary luminaries like Ted Kooser, Robert Bly, Philip Levine, and Linda Pastan. The journal itself received the 2002 Minnesota State Book Award for its 25th-anniversary issue.
What: Great River Review Launch Party
When: Tuesday, Oct. 17, 6–8 p.m.
Where: Weisman Art Museum
Who: The event will feature readings from fiction writer Michael Walsh, nonfiction writers Erica Berry and Jordan Thomas, and poet Gretchen Marquette.
What else: Free food, cash bar, music from Worldwide Discotheque
Cost: Free and open to the public
“Making sure the journal stays in Minnesota was important in our decision to offer it to the university,” said Hedin at the time of his retirement from the journal. For Campion, GRR was also a natural fit for the university’s English program. A former editor of the journal Literary Imagination (Oxford University Press), Campion saw in GRR the opportunity to give students experience learning about literary journals while helping to publish one. The production of GRR is tied to a graduate-level course offered through the English Department.
“Periodicals are a vital element of literary culture, so it makes sense for our students to have experience working on them,” said Campion. “For my part, it’s also a lot of fun to be in a place where everybody’s getting their hands dirty producing something.”
The latest issue of GRR features work by renowned poets and writers such as David St. John, Jill McDonough, Anna Journey, and Tomás Q. Morín, as well as translations of poets Nazim Hikmet and Kuno Raeber. The issue also features an interview with Gretchen Marquette, a Minneapolis poet whose most recent work, May Day, was published by Minneapolis’s Graywolf Press.
Celebrating the Twin Cities literary scene is important to Campion, and he’s eager for GRR to reflect its vitality to the wider world of readers. “At the same time,” he adds, “since we’re not a regional magazine as such—we publish authors from all over—I want to bring great writing from all over the world into the fold of the Twin Cities community.”
For Campion, doing so is a continuation of Hedin’s work at the helm of GRR, which saw several of its pieces reprinted in Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, Best American Travel Essays, and Best American Sports Stories during Hedin’s tenure.
“Something I admire about the way Robert edited the journal—he didn’t seem to have ‘an aesthetic’ as such,” said Campion. “He simply published work that he considered first-rate. I hope to do the same. I just want to support the best poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. As a reader, I’m eager to be astonished by superb new writing, regardless of any affiliation.”
He added, “I think readers with a similar desire for surprise will find such gifts in Great River Review.”
Great River Review’s launch party is free and open to the public. The event will feature food, a cash bar, and globetrotting, soulful grooves courtesy of Worldwide Discotheque.
For more information about the journal, the event, and submitting work for future issues, visit greatriverreview.umn.edu.