In his sophomore year, Alex Raz ’16, joined earlier this year by Palak Patel ’16, resolved to revive Vassar’s longstanding literary journal, the Vassar Review. This journal was originally published from 1927 to 1993, featured nationally acclaimed writers and is now celebrating its long-awaited return. Unlike the Vassar Student Review, the Vassar Review primarily features submissions from writers outside of Vassar and aims to have an international audience.
However, the process of reinstating the Vassar Review was ambitious. Advisory board member and Professor of English Paul Kane remarked, “When Alex Raz first approached me about his idea to revive the Vassar Review, I was a little skeptical because I knew, from experience, that such a scheme required an immense amount of diligent work to organize and execute.” He continued, “But Alex had had experience with all of this already and I have to admit that he surprised me in how effective and determined he turned out to be.”
Arts Faculty Editor and Loeb Curator and Assistant Director Mary- Kay Lombino agreed. She wrote in an emailed statement, “When Alex Raz first told me he was reviving the Vassar Review I saw that it was a great idea and that he would be able to get it off the ground, but I had no idea how ambitious it would be.”
Over the span of two years, Raz and Patel networked with a number of faculty members and offices on campus before bringing everyone together at the beginning of this academic year to begin the real work. This newly formed editorial board solicited and edited submissions from renowned and emerging artists from all over the world. Advisory board member and Professor and Chair of the English Department Mark Amodio observed, “Going from a student idea…to a publication in the space of two years is pretty remarkable.”
Of course, the expedited publication time was due in part to a strong team of students, professors and school faculty. The Vassar Review is comprised of seven sections, each consisting of two student co-editors and a faculty member. Raz noted, “Student-faculty collaboration is important to the project and looking nationally, we couldn’t find any other journals that are quite so intimate with students and faculty and trust student knowledge on level with faculty knowledge.”
The theme of the first edition of the revived Review will be “Trauma and Träume: Pain and Dreams in Art & Literature.” Raz remarked, “We thought the theme would speak to a diverse number of selections.” It certainly did, and submissions by gif artists, poets and basket weavers poured in, which complemented the written pieces nicely. “The art wouldn’t be as good without the writing, and the writing wouldn’t be as good without the visual works either,” noted Arts co-editor Catherine Lucey ’19. “The goal was to do something completely different than other literary journals, and a major factor of that was accepting all types of mediums in our journal,” Patel added [Full Disclosure: Palak Patel is the Editor-in-Chief of The Miscellany News].
“One of the things I really love about it is that now it includes visual art and digital media, so it’s a much broader type of publication than the original, yet at the same time, it pays homage to the old one by including an archival section,” Lombino wrote. The Review will feature archived poetry by alumni like Elizabeth Bishop ’34, which was originally featured in an earlier incarnation of the Vassar Review. Raz added, “It’s exciting in a way to know that you’re pulling from a history that other people tangibly felt when they were in this space, so I think that’s definitely palpable here.”
While paying its respects to the past, the Vassar Review intends to focus on contemporary issues. “The journal was the work of the female students on campus in a predominantly male-centered industry,” Raz explained. “Of course, having a space for marginalized artists and marginal identities is certainly important to the journal…”
A launch party will be held May 5 in the Loeb sculpture garden to celebrate the anticipated release of the revived journal’s first edition, including a pre-screening of digital media works and live music. “It should be a very nice celebration,” Amodio said. “I’m watching with great admiration as they really have pulled this together.”
Most importantly, the launch party will include copies of the journal for sale. Amodio explained, “Selling them is part of the model that’s going to make this viable. Certainly a sizeable investment of time and energy has gone into this, but then there’s also a pretty substantial economic investment in it as well, and the model is to make this self-sustaining, not to turn a profit on it but just to make it so that it can generate itself.”
Literary Nonfiction co-editor Christian Prince ’18noted, “We want it to be something that people around the country can purchase and get excited about and doesn’t have to be this Vassar-specific project … Of course, Vassar students can uniquely appreciate it because they go to this school.” Digital Media co-editor Esteban Uribe ’17agreed: “As Vassar students familiarize themselves more and more with the journal, it’s going to get more student support and more people will want to be involved…and the more people who are involved, the better it’s going to be.”